Kentucky Derby fans start your engines! Tomorrow is the kickoff of the Kentucky Derby season. The day will be marked with an event that’s taken on a life of its own, rivaling the Derby itself—Thunder Over Louisville.
Thunder Over Louisville is a firework show combining popular music selections with thousands of fireworks to begin the season of Kentucky Derby Festival. What began several years ago as a kickoff event focused only on the fireworks has now added an afternoon air show, carnival rides, local restaurant specials, festival food and more starting on a Saturday morning a fortnight ahead of the Kentucky Derby.
Oddly enough, as much as I enjoy fireworks and watching them, I’ve never been. The sheer number of people, heat, and long day just don’t appeal to me. My brother and sister-in-law have gone in the years before my nephews came along. My biggest gripe is the price gouging that inevitably happens on Thunder Saturday. Restaurants in Jeffersonville and New Albany in Indiana along with Louisville offer specials with pricing on par for New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day. Not only is the price seemingly inflated outside of rational limits the reservations have to be made more than a month or two in advance. I know they offer use of their restroom facilities as an alternative to the thunder pots which are Porta-Potties but named for the event at hand. If you try to avoid the expensive restaurant trap, you’re relegated to squatters’ rights being in play in the local parks overlooking the bridge and barges where the fireworks will be shot off from. Families are encouraged to leave one unlucky person to stake their personal space out while others seek food and entertainment and then relieve their family member when the shift ends.
Like with watching professional sports teams, I would much rather watch the event from my own home. Why pay $8 for a soda and another $9 for food, fight traffic, and fight to hope to see the event when I can watch on television and pay less for food that isn’t ridiculously priced and stay away from traffic.
I’m probably also more than skeptical of the whole Derby Festival anyways. It’s two weeks of buildup for two minutes of horses running around a track. And if recent HBO specials and news reports about the industry are to be believed, it needs to stop. Horses obviously have ability to outrun people and humans will always be competitive, but there are modern modes of transportation that humans can use to compete with, i.e. race cars. I’m perfectly fine with Speedweeks at Daytona and Carb Days at the Indy 500 as ancillary events to the main races because unlike horse racing those events will last more than two minutes.
I know I’m sounding negative and downplaying tomorrow’s festivities, but inevitably I’ll watch the fireworks show on the local news to have something to talk about Sunday morning at church or with friends and family, but unless something magical like a girlfriend who always goes to Thunder Over Louisville comes in my life, I’ll stay home and enjoy my own way.
What are your thoughts about Thunder Over Louisville?