In the wake of the explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday afternoon, which left at least two dead and dozens injured, officials with the Kentucky Derby Festival said its events will go on as planned.
Mike Berry, chief executive officer and president of the nonprofit Kentucky Derby Festival, said nothing will be canceled, according to an Associate Press report. The festival puts on 70 events around the Kentucky Derby, including the massive Thunder Over Louisville air and fireworks show set for Saturday.
Officials with the Kentucky Derby Festival said for now, plans will remain the same and planners will follow the recommendations of law enforcement as to how to ensure safety at the events.
“We work with them very closely to coordinate all of our emergency action plans,” said Kentucky Derby Festival Spokesperson Aimee Boyd. “We are always working to make changes and improvements ... . [We] already have extraordinary plans in place [and] we are already on heightened awareness because Thunder is such a large event.”
Boyd said the festival organizers work with the Department of Homeland Security, state and local law enforcement officials to develop security and emergency plans for the Derby Festival events.
“We have very comprehensive plans in place,” said Matt Gibson, vice president of events for the Kentucky Derby Festival, at an impromptu news conference Monday afternoon. “Obviously, the larger the crowd the larger the concern.”
Thunder Over Louis- ville, which is just five days away and one of the region’s largest events, expects to draw crowds of between 500,000 and 700,000. Large crowds are also expected for the Kentucky Derby Marathon and mini marathon Saturday, April 27. Officials said the race will draw about 17,000 runners and as many as 40,000 spectators, depending on the weather.
The Kentucky Derby itself drew more than 165,000 spectators last year. The Kentucky Derby will be held on Saturday, May 4.
“We understand anybody’s concern if you saw the events of today,” Berry said.
Derby officials said they will follow the recommendations of security officials if they amend security plans or recommend an increased police presence.
“Safety is always our first priority,” Boyd said.
But Gibson added that common sense will also help officials maintain safety.
“If you see something, say something; and bring your common sense,” he said.
A similar plan of action is expected on the Indiana side of the Ohio River where thousands will camp out for Thunder Over Louisville.
Indiana State Police Sgt. Jerry Goodin said police will sit down in the next few days and discuss the security plan for Thunder, but right now they are sticking with the same plan they’ve had in previous years.
“We’ve actually stepped up our security since 9/11,” Goodin said.
He said the police presence will likely remain at the same levels, with nearly 250 officers in Southern Indiana with state and local officers combined. The Indiana State Police will also have an emergency response team, a bomb squad and aircraft available if the need arises.
“I think you’re going to be safe down here,” Goodin said. “We’re prepared for anything that can happen.”
Goodin added that if you attend Thunder Over Louisville and see something suspicious, notify police.
In addition, if anyone has an emergency while attending the festivities they should dial 911. If they have a general complaint or need a police report they should dial 812-283-6633 or 812-246-5424.