After the 1990 show, the show producers realized what a dynamic impact the fireworks show had made. The sound particularly rolled across the landscape like thunder. Thus, the show demanded a title that adequately reflected its intensity.
More than 2,000 people are involved in making Thunder a safe and enjoyable show. This includes all the public safety officials, clean up crews, vendors, volunteers and participants. Click here for a list of all those people and groups that work on Thunder Over Louisville.
The Louisville Metro Police Department advises Thunder patrons to plan ahead when determining a parking strategy for Thunder Over Louisville. Park as far away as you can comfortably walk and plan on parking in areas that will get you headed in the direction of town you intend to go.
In Downtown Louisville, there are more than 52,000 public parking, off-street spaces within a 10-block walk to the River. For more information on garage and lot locations visit one of these websites at: www.riversideparking.com/locations.html or www.louisvilleky.gov/PARC/ or contact the Parking Authority of River City (PARC) at (502) 587-PARK.
Southern Indiana: Public and private parking is available in Southern Indiana. Contact the Clark/Floyd County Convention and Tourism Bureau more information (812) 282-6654. Water Tower Square (Jeffersonville) – RV & Car Parking available. For more information on costs and location call (812) 288-9057.
RV PARKING: Riverside Parking: RV and camper parking $200.00 to $300.00. Call (502) 584-2459.
No bikes, skateboards or skates are allowed within the event venue. You will be asked to walk them in for pedestrian safety.
But, there is FREE valet bicycle parking. If you ride your bicycle to Thunder Over Louisville, you can park it at the “Free Valet Bicycle Parking” located on the northeast corner of Witherspoon Street and Preston Street, north of Slugger Field. The facility will open at 11 AM and close at 11 PM. Click here for more information.
The Kentucky Derby Festival provides this free bicycle parking as another way to make Louisville Bicycle Friendly.
The weather for Thunder has varied widely. Highs for the day have ranged from mid-40’s to mid-80’s. Generally it gets cooler at night, so bring along a sweatshirt or jacket. Tune in to the official TV and Radio broadcast partners for the official Thunder forecast.
Fortunately, Thunder has never been canceled for any reason. Fireworks can be shot in the rain and as long as the show can be shot safely, it will go on. Thunder is such a massive logistical undertaking; it would be next to impossible to postpone it to another night.
Hotel rooms can be difficult to find for Thunder Over Louisville, particularly in Downtown Louisville and Southern Indiana. For information on hotel and travel accommodations, please contact the following:
- Greater Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau www.gotolouisville.com or by calling (502) 584-2121 or (800) 626-5646.
- Southern Indiana Convention and Visitors Bureau_315 Southern Indiana Jeffersonville, Indiana 47130 (812) 280-5566; (800) 552-3842; Fax (812) 282-1904 www.sunnysideoflouisville.org
In 2011, the Derby Festival conducted an economic impact study that determined Thunder Over Louisville generated more than $56 million for the local economy. The total economic impact for the entire 70 events of the Derby Festival is estimated at $127.9 million for both Greater Louisville and Southern Indiana.
In just 28 years, what started as a better than average fireworks display has become the pinnacle of pyrotechnics. Thunder is the nation’s largest annual fireworks event. It is also one of the top five air shows in the country. Fireworks have been a part of celebrating the Kentucky Derby Festival since the 1960’s. Various displays occurred on different nights of the week and locations such as Oxmoor Center in East Jefferson County, including sites along the Ohio River.
The Festival had its first “opening ceremonies” event in 1990 at Cardinal Stadium featuring recording artist Janie Frickie and a fireworks show. That led to the first “Thunder” in 1991, held downtown over the Ohio River. With the support of the community, sponsors and city officials, the show has become the region’s largest annual event, attracting a regional and even national audience. The air show was slowly added as a way to stagger the crowd entering the event and provide entertainment before the 9:30 pm fireworks portion. The air show is now an event of it’s own and ranks in the top 5 air shows in the nation. Thunder Over Louisville has made a lot of people happy, garnered international attention, entertained millions and given Greater Louisvillians something else to brag about.
2017 – Saturday, April 22
2018 – Saturday, April 21
The Thunder Air Show along the Ohio River usually starts at 3 PM.
The fireworks show begins at 9:30 PM and ends at 10:00 PM.
The entire event area is accessible and there are no designated viewing areas. Handicap parking is available in all area PARC garages and Riverside Parking garages, near the Kennedy Bridge in Jeffersonville and near the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center in Clarksville. All is available on a first-come/first served basis.
Thunder Over Louisville is free to the public with the purchase of a 2018 Pegasus Pin – thanks to the generous support of sponsors. Public viewing areas stretch from 8th Street to Clay Street north of Main Street in Kentucky, and along Riverside Drive from Ashland Park in Clarksville to Spring Street in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Also, check out the Meijer Family Fun Zone on the Belvedere!
The Chow Wagon and Waterfront Park and North Great Lawn at Waterfront Park offer front row seats to the show. Admission to both areas is FREE with a 2018 Pegasus Pin.
All of Waterfront Park is open & offers free public viewing for Thunder. The show is so massive that it can be seen almost anywhere. Waterfront Park will have continuous action and interactive attractions from 11 AM until the firework’s finale at 10 PM. Along River Road is always a popular place. The entertainment garden of the “Chow Wagon” at Waterfront Park offers live bands for a Pegasus Pin admission. The North Great Lawn at Waterfront Park is another great spot for viewing. It opens at 9 AM on Thunder Day and admission is Free with a 2018 Pegasus Pin.
Southern Indiana Side:
Jeffersonville, Indiana has changed over the last several of years. The area between the Clark and Kennedy bridges will be very limited. To accommodate the crowds, more viewing areas have been developed between Fort and Pearl Street on Riverside Drive, east of the Kennedy bridge.
Food vendors are generally signed up by December. If you are interested, please contact Concessions by Cox, 614-297-0735 or email@example.com.
Souvenir vendors should call The Festival at 502-584-6383 to inquire about vending opportunities.
If your company is interested in using Thunder Over Louisville to market goods or services, or hospitality opportunities, you should contact the Sales and Sponsporship Department at the Kentucky Derby Festival, (502) 572-3836.
If you have a product or service that you believe could be utilized by Thunder Over Louisville, please contact Tricia Siegwald, Director of Event Production, Kentucky Derby Festival, (502) 584-6383.
If you have an air show act, searchlights, musical group or other act that you believe could be utilized by Thunder Over Louisville, please contact Anna Miller, Event Manager, Kentucky Derby Festival, (502) 584-6383 before March 20.
Naturally, with an event of this size, first aid and safety looms large in the planning. There are EIGHT first aid stations positioned on both sides of the river manned by Red Cross/EMS and ambulances. Nearly 80 Red Cross/EMS personnel will man these positions beginning at 1 PM until the conclusion of the event.
Extra buses will be on 14 routes that normally operate Saturday in the downtown area. Regular Saturday fares will be in effect. Please contact TARC for more information at 585-1234 or www.ridetarc.org.
- Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk some.
- Purchase a 2017 Pegasus Pin for $6 in advance, $7 at the gate.
- Arrive as early as practical for the best space. Food service starts at 3 PM at all sites and the airshow begins at 3 PM
- Park as far away from the event area as you can comfortably walk. This will make exiting traffic easier.
- Use TARC buses to get to the event using normal routes. There is expanded service all day.
- P.A.R.C. or Riverside Garages in area are accessible until full for special event rates.
- Call 587-PARK. All handicapped spaces are honored until full.
- Follow the LMPD traffic plan, and you’ll get home faster.
No Drones are allowed at Thunder Over Louisville. The FAA has established a no-fly zone around the Thunder venue. Unmanned aircraft, such as drones, won’t be allowed within 5 miles. Any drones on site could shut down the air show. Violators face confiscation and up to an $11,000 fine. This will be strictly enforced.
For safety reasons the following are not permitted in the event area, which goes south from the Ohio River to Main Street between Clay Street and 10th Street and includes the Thunder Chow Wagon and North Great Lawn viewing area:
- No drones are allowed.
- No tents or canopies of any kind.
- No stakes.
- No tape, rope or pennant lines allowed.
- No glass bottles are allowed at the event site.
- Picnic blankets (and tarps limited to 10′ x 10′) and lawn chairs are permitted.
- Plastic bottles and food are permitted. There is also plenty of food and soft drink stands to take care of any needs you may have. Beer is available at the Chow Wagon at Waterfront Park, North Great Lawn, the West Belvedere Beer Garden and River Road Beer Garden.
- No alcoholic beverages are allowed.
- No bikes, skateboards or skates are allowed in the event venue. You will be asked to walk them in for pedestrian safety.
- Please leave any pets at home.
- Due to increased security – all persons and parcels are subject to search.
Contact the nearest police officer and they can direct you to the Lost Child Station nearest you. Please tell your child before coming to the show, should you get lost, contact a police officer and ask the officer to take you to a Lost Child Center.
The total cost of producing the event exceeds $1 million. But for a benefit to the community of 56 times that, our sponsors and board believe it is worth every penny.
Tips for safe boating at Thunder Over Louisville
- NO WAKE ZONE. A No Wake Zone is in effect from Ohio River Mile 602.3 (Portland Canal) through Mile 598.0 (Six Mile Island). This is also the area that is regulated and monitored by the Coast Guard and other public safety officials.
- There is a PICKET LINE at the Big Four Bridge. No public or commercial traffic beyond this line during the show.
- No Entry Zone – 12PM. The Coast Guard will establish a no entry zone from 606.0 to 602.0.
Be Aware of River Conditions!
- Strong river currents: High water associated with melting snow and spring rains can significantly increase river current speeds.
- Waves and congestion: An estimated 450 boaters may attend this event. After the fireworks conclude, boaters leaving the area may produce wakes and ignore navigation rules. Be patient and plan to take a little extra time to return home.
- Debris: High water can produce heavy debris and drift. It is difficult, especially at night, for boaters to see and avoid these hazards to navigation.
- Low water temperature: While the air temperature may be warm, the river water temperature can be around 40 degrees. This low a temperature can cause Hypothermia within minutes.
- Fatigue: Many boaters enjoy the event from before Noon until after the fireworks display. That much time on a boat can be tiring and lead boaters to make serious mistakes.
- Drinking: Those unlawfully drinking alcohol amplify the risks to themselves and other boaters.
Solutions and Tips:
- Pre-trip you boat: Preventative maintenance to your boat will help you avoid problems later. Properly working navigation lights and safety/distress equipment are a must.
- Wear Lifejackets: Just do it!
- Use appropriate anchors: Makeshift anchors like five-gallon buckets and cinderblocks will not hold on the river bottom.
- Observe safety rules at all times: No wake zones and navigation rules of the road exist to keep boaters safe; abide by them! Right size boat: Ensure your boat can handle the large wakes put out by other boaters.
- Safe boating courses: The Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Power Squadron have great courses for the novice and experienced boaters alike. Call CG Auxiliary at (502) 459-0287 or the Power Squadron at (502) 241-6851 for more information.
Together we can make our waterways safer. And remember: The safest place for a boater to enjoy Thunder Over Louisville is FROM THE BANK!