The History Of Thunder Over Louisville

The History Of Thunder Over Louisville

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Thunder Over Louisville, the annual kickoff event of the Kentucky Derby Festival, is an airshow and fireworks display in LouisvilleKentucky.

What once was a simple fireworks display marking the beginning of derby season, is now the nation’s biggest fireworks display that marks the beginning of the Thunder of Louisville festival as well as derby season! Every year, on the first Saturday of May, the community of Louisville and surrounding counties come together to celebrate the most anticipated event of the year. Thunder Over Louisville has entertained millions of people over the years and remains one of the highest attended events of the year.

The year 1988 marks the first time an event was held to indicate an opening ceremony for the derby season. The Kentucky Derby Festival Board decided to hold planning workshops and a balloon release during this time in the state park of Western Kentucky. This event was far from what we know today as Thunder Over Louisville, however, it brought together 10,000 members of the community to celebrate the release of 20,000 colorful balloons into the air.

During the release of the balloons, the crowd was surprised by a show of fireworks in the sky. WAVE 3 TV aired this event live and has been heavily involved in the festival ever since. This event was so well-loved and received that it became an annual celebration; slowly getting bigger and more extravagant, until it became what you see today: a nationwide festival known as Thunder Over Louisville.

If you are interested in attending one of the largest annual fireworks shows in 2022, Thunder Over Louisville’s website includes all the information you need to come fully prepared for a great time. Additionally, Thunder Over Louisville has finally released its schedule of events for the two weeks prior to the derby and can be accessed here

Now Kentucky isn’t just known for the Derby and Thunder Over Louisville, but also for their mind-blowing bourbon and American whiskey. Every year, the Thunder Over Louisville festival comes out with a special bourbon to celebrate that year’s festival! Cox’s and Evergreen Liquors Spirit Shoppe are proud to release the 2022 Official Bourbon of Thunder exclusively at Evergreen Liquors in Middletown.

This year’s release will be a Four Roses Single Barrel which will make it the most allocated Official Bourbon of Thunder yet!  The bourbon has an OESK recipe, is 11 years old, and bottled at 108.4  proof.  It will retail at $89.99 and there will be a 1 bottle per person limit. The Kentucky Derby Festival is proudly sponsored by Cox’s and Evergreen Liquors.

Brent Elliott, Master Distiller of Four Roses, will be available at Evergreen Liquors to sign bottles!

Fireworks from bridge on Thunder over Louisville

Bonus Facts about Thunder Over Louisville!

  • Officials say “Thunder Over Louisville” got its name after show producers realized how much impact the fireworks show made on the community. The sound of the fireworks “rolled across the landscape like thunder” – and so the name was given to reflect the intensity of the noise.
  • WHAS-TV held exclusive rights to broadcast Thunder Over Louisville from 1991 to 2003 before it went into a rotation with other stations. 
  • The Thunder Over Louisville airshow is one of the top 5 airshows in the nation. It features more than 100 planes including UPS’ Boeing 767, and the Kentucky Air National Guard’s C-130. 
  • Thunder’s physical firework setup includes 250 tons of launching tubes, (some as high as 10-feet with a diameter of 12-inches) and almost 700-miles of wire cable connecting 20 firing computers to the command post for synchronization to music.
  • The largest crowd size ever recorded for Thunder Over Louisville was 850,000 in 2007.
  • If Easter falls on a scheduled Thunder weekend, the festival moves the show to the prior weekend.
  • KDF officials will have a drone show before the fireworks with 50 drones in various formations this year!

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