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April 13, 2014

UPDATE WITH VIDEO: Thunder rocks Southern Indiana

Annual fireworks extravaganza can put a strain on riverfront residents

JEFFERSONVILLE — The U.S. Navy Blue Angels soared overhead, fireworks lit up the night sky, and thousands of people were treated to a spectacular show of military might and pyrotechnics genius during Thunder over Louisville on Saturday.

Parking was at premium in downtown Jeffersonville as people flocked to the riverfront to stake out a spot for the event. Due to federal sequesters last year, there were no military aircraft during the 2013 Thunder over Louisville air show.

Kentucky Derby officials estimated this year's crowd at 650,000.

The military planes were back this year, and they were more than a welcomed sight to many.

Due in part to boasting one of the top air shows in the country, Thunder over Louisville draws visitors from around the region to Southern Indiana and Louisville.

Don Perry came from out of town to check out the event, as Saturday marked his first Thunder over Louisville experience.

Perry — a military veteran — watched intently as the fighter planes flew overhead. Perry said he planned on staying for the fireworks, but added the planes were the big draw for him.

“So far, my favorite has been the Blue Angels,” he said.

People were packing the Jeffersonville riverfront well before planes began appearing over the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge.

Saturday was one of the warmest days of 2014, and there wasn’t a lack of attendance for Thunder over Louisville.

The event puts demands on public agencies such as police officers and street departments, but the festivities can also disturb property owners.

“It’s fun but it’s kind of an inconvenience,” said Jody Johnson, who owns a house off Riverside Drive near Wall Street.

That home is actually for sale, as he moved his family to Greenville last year. But like the years when they resided in the house, Johnson and his family watched the air show from the porch of the home, as strangers passed by just a few feet from the front steps.

Johnson said he didn’t really mind Thunder over Louisville as much as some of the other events Jeffersonville held on the riverfront when he lived there.

“I could take it or leave it,” he said of his indifferent attitude toward Thunder.

Parking for residents is the big issue when Thunder and other events are held along Jeffersonville’s riverfront, Johnson said.

After watching the fireworks from their front porch for years at the Jeffersonville home, Johnson said he’s told his wife, Maudie, that he would prefer to sell the house and take in the show in a different setting next year.

“Next year, I told her we’re going to watch on television,” Johnson said.

But as usual, many of the houses and condominiums along Riverside Drive hosted parties for Thunder. Music blared and grills smoked as friends and family members enjoyed the sun soaked afternoon.

People shouted from balconies and crowded restaurant patios. Vendors sold everything from palm readings to pretzels, as lines extended into the street so far for food that walkers had to maneuver around the waiting patrons to get by.

“Everybody is ready to get out and get off the couch and enjoy the weather,” said Hobie Combs, who operated a kettle popcorn booth at the corner of Spring Street and Riverside Drive.


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