By BRADEN LAMMERS
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Tune in. It’s time for the region’s annual sign that spring has arrived.
Thunder Over Louisville will kick off the Kentucky Derby Festival for the 24th time Saturday. The theme for this year’s event is “Thunder Vision,” and will incorporate themes based off of TV shows of the past and present.
The annual fireworks show is set to light up the night sky at 9:30 p.m., which is set to last about 30 minutes and is one of North America’s largest fireworks displays. The fireworks are preceded by the air show, which is set to begin at 3 p.m.
This year’s air show may be a little different as the military aircraft that soar above the crowds gathered along the banks of the Ohio River will be absent due to federal budget cuts.
However, Aimee Boyd, spokesperson for the Kentucky Derby Festival, said despite not having the military jets and planes for the air show, there will be a full air display with many acts that have not been seen at Thunder before.
“It’s going to be different, but it’s going to be new,” she said. “We’re going to see air acts that we’ve never seen before in the air show.”
Boyd said there will be a lot of vintage military aircraft that will take to the skies and there will be more planes in the air at one time than there has been before at the Thunder air show.
One act, Team AeroDynamix, will have 12 planes in the air at one time. And another new act will be a jet air combat show pitting “Red Star” against “The Dragon” in a staged aerial battle.
“These are things that have never been in Louisville before,” Boyd said. “It’s shaping up to be a great show. Thunder is such a tradition for a lot of folks.”
Expectations are that 500,000 to 700,000 people will line up along the riverfronts in Jeffersonville, Clarksville and Louisville.
Some of the crowds are dependent upon the weather, and the forecast for Saturday is calling for sunny skies and temperatures approaching 60 degrees, according to the National Weather Service forecast.
Boyd encouraged folks to plan ahead before coming to Thunder and added they should come out to see both the air show and the fireworks.
This year’s TV partner for the event is WHAS-TV and Lite 106.9 WVEZ will be the radio partner.
In the wake of the bombing that occurred during the Boston Marathon Monday, several police officials said they will review their plans for the large, outdoor event.
Jeffersonville Police Chief Chris Grimm told the Jeffersonville City Council at its Monday night meeting that the city’s police officials are re-evaluating and may revamp its Thunder plan.
“Every asset we have will be used that day,” he added.
Grimm chose not to elaborate on what, if anything, will change.
Clarksville Police Chief Mark Palmer said the town’s first responders will be prepared Saturday.
“We’re going to continue with the plan, we’re just going to enhance it,” he said.
Palmer added that there will be an increased presence for the event. State and federal agencies will bring in additional manpower to assist, which will include representatives from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.
“We will actually triple our manpower,” he said.
Palmer added the checkpoints where attendees enter the viewing area for Thunder will be the same and police will be performing a more thorough search.
“Security is going to be enhanced, so the wait is going to be a little bit longer,” he said. “Safety is the main goal here.”
Indiana State Police Sgt. Jerry Goodin said police will discuss the security plan for Thunder, but right now they are sticking with the same plan they’ve had in previous years, which increased security after 9/11.
“We’ve had this plans for months,” he said. “We looked over the plan. We think our plan is a good, solid plan.”
More than 100 troopers from the state will work the event and if necessary, additional state and federal forces could be called in to assist.
Goodin said Indiana State Police will also have an emergency response team, a bomb squad and aircraft available at Saturday’s air and fireworks show as a safety precaution.