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Thunder Over Louisville goes hybrid for 32nd annual airshow, fireworks

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Posted at 1:31 PM, Mar 25, 2021

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — The 32nd annual kick-off for the Kentucky Derby Festival, Thunder Over Louisville, will be a hybrid airshow and fireworks event on April 17.

"There's a good chance you may be able to walk outside your house and see them [airshow and fireworks]. We've built this so a majority of this community will see, feel and hear it," said Derby Festival President and CEO Matt Gibson.

The airshow, set for sometime between 4 and 6 p.m., will feature Kentucky Air National Guard's C-130, UPS's A10s and C-17s, Tuskegee Airman P-51 as well as military helicopters. Louisvillians can expect to see fly-overs in their neighborhoods.

The fireworks, set for 9:30 p.m., will be coordinated to launch from five unnamed locations throughout Louisville, with one in southern Indiana. The display is expected to last for 18 minutes.

For those in the Louisville area, the televised show can be seen on WHAS or listened to on MIX 106.9.

"It's an exciting show. So my hope is that come April 17 metro Louisville gets a little retro, and you get your families all around the television grab some popcorn and help us celebrate," said Thunder Over Louisville producer Wayne Hettinger, also known as the "Father of Thunder."

Organizers said the only way this unique event was approved was with the promise of no large gatherings.

"It is very important in order to get approval to do these types of efforts responsibly and to make sure that we weren't turning the dial in the wrong direction for all of the great things that are happening in our fight against this pandemic," Gibson said. "We can't reiterate [enough] that you just cannot gather around these, even if you find out what these locations are, that will put the show, or these locations, in jeopardy."

The theme for the 32nd annual event is "Illuminating Our City." After a year of a pandemic and much social unrest in Louisville, organizers found the name fitting.

"That has become an underlying directive in our organization or guiding principle is that there's a lot that we have to do in our town, to make it more equitable, more inclusive, and it is again a tenant that we have written and etched in stone in the foundation of our organization so it's going to be the core of everything that we do moving forward," Gibson said. "And what a great place to start, then when you're talking about Thunder Over Louisville."

Looking ahead after the pandemic, organizers say the goal is to revert back to the waterfront event.

"We aren't saying that anything's out of the question, but I think the community would love, just as we would and our partners would in this community, would love to see this show back on the waterfront and its true form," Gibson said. "And that's one of the things that we certainly talk about and look forward to. Once we get safely beyond this pandemic, and we start to ease our way back into live space events."

Sponsors of The 2021 Thunder Over Louisville event include UPS Airlines, Caesars Southern Indiana, LG&E, Meijer, GE Appliances, Papa Johns, Ford Motor Company and Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.