News and Tribune

April 21, 2013

Thunder tradition: Kentucky Derby Festival kickoff and annual rite of spring lights up Kentuckiana



Sunny skies and early brisk temperatures greeted the fans of the annual kickoff to the Kentucky Derby Festival as they lined up along the banks of the Ohio River.

For the 24th time Thunder Over Louisville drew thousands to the region for the annual air show and fireworks display.

Crowds of between 500,000 and 700,000 were expected to descend on Louisville, Jeffersonville and Clarksville for Thunder Over Louisville, but for the second year in a row they were late to arrive.

Sgt. Jerry Goodin said it was a slow start with the cold morning and expected crowds to pour into the area later in the day. He added, as of about 1 p.m., that there had been no issues with security or the crowds.

Jeffersonville Police Department Det. Todd Hollis also said there had not been any significant issues with the people coming into the area to view the air show and fireworks.

“A lot of prep work went into today,” he said. “There’s a lot of traffic coming in.”



But some followed their normal routine for Thunder Over Louisville.

New Albany resident LaTonya Crutcher said she, along with some family and friends, arrived to their spot in Jeffersonville — next to the Terrace Lawn — at about 10 a.m. 

She said they come to the same spot every year at the same time, and enjoys the family atmosphere of the event.

“I love Thunder. I love Derby. This has been a tradition for the last five years,” Crutcher said. 

She added that she was not deterred from coming this year with a smaller air show, nor was she worried about threats to her safety.

“Whatever’s going on in the world, it doesn’t mean we need to live in fear,” Crutcher said.

Deon Alford, who was camped out with the group, said that he was glad that despite being smaller, the air show was still being held.

“It wouldn’t be Thunder without both of them,” he said of the air show and the fireworks. “You’ve got to have the air show first.”

While only a handful of people were camping out in the early afternoon, Crutcher said that more than 30 people expected to join her before the fireworks lit up the night sky.

“I’m excited,” she said.



A little before noon a group of six claimed a prime spot in Clarksville perched at along the banks of the river in Clarksville’s Ashland Park.

Jim Townsend said it was the third year that he and his wife had made the trek from Pittsburgh, Penn., for the fireworks show. 

“We drive eight hours to get here and come to watch the fireworks,” Jim Townsend said.

“People say we’re nuts, but we keep coming back year after year,” said Linda Townsend. She explained the couple first decided to come to Thunder Over Louisville because they saw a TV show that highlighted the annual fireworks display as one of the nation’s largest.

And this year, they convinced friends to come along.

Rick and Bev Bortz said their friends told them they had to check out the fireworks display, so they agreed.

The group said they really weren’t disappointed that military aircraft were not going to be a part of the air show this year and understood why the cuts were made. Jim Townsend added in the two previous years that they’ve attended parts of the air show were canceled due to poor weather, and another year it was difficult to see the planes because of cloud cover.

But the real reason for sitting in their chairs along the banks of the Ohio River in Clarksville was the fireworks. This year’s show “Thunder Vision” was a massive fireworks display set to the music of TV through the years.

“They haven’t seen them yet. They’re in for a thrill,” Jim Townsend said.