My colleague Steve Coomes and I thought it would be cool to cover some Thunder Over Louisville special events, a chance to see how Thunder is experienced when you've got access to some of the bigger-ticket events
So he volunteered to take the Indiana side. I went for the first-class dinner at the Oakroom and the Louisville Ballet party on Main Street. I think I got the better deal.
Susan and I spent the day at Keeneland, but got back in plenty of time for our 7 p.m. reservations at the classy Oakroom, where the sophisticated atmosphere seemed a lot further than one level up from the crowd ambling on down Fourth Street for the big show.
The idea, as chef Bobby Benjamin explained, was to give a sort-of festival-like treatment to the traditional fare served there -- so the lobster came in the form of fritters, the bison was served on little White Castle-like buns, and the vegetarian mushroom ravioli came in a Jetsons-like dish.
The service, of course, was impeccable. It was quiet, peaceful and everything served was delicious, including the frickled pickles with the addictive vanilla mustard sauce. The dessert, Bananas Foster, was melt-in-your mouth delightful.
Importantly, the pace of the experience was in high contrast to everything going on in the blocks surrounding us. There were other guests at the Seelbach, but the tables were spaced so that it felt like a private party, and Jamal, our waiter, took great care of us.
But once we left the Seelbach, all that changed.
The stroll through Fourth Street Live down to Main Street, then six blocks or so east to the Ballet headquarters, involved lots of foot-shuffling to dodge everything from bikes to cars to motorcyles to strollers to drunks. All the while, it was hard to keep our eyes off the sky, where odd-shaped aircraft kept buzzing by. We made it, though, with what we thought were just 10 minutes to spare before the start of the show.
The Ballet's party was done up right. By the time we got there, the elaborately-decorated interiors were abandoned, with everyone out on the back deck. The view wasn't spectacular -- with Waterfront Park Place springing up right between the Ballet and the Second Street Bridge. It was jam-packed with people, we couldn't hear the soundtrack, and the breeze was chilly.
But who am I to complain? I could see thousands of people wandering around at Waterfront Park and knew they must be either colder, hungrier or thirstier than me. And I could clearly see the sky where the shells would be exploding any minute.
Once the show finally started, after the unexpected delay, the anticipation, the planning, the walking. . . it was all worth it. And I was treating Susan to her first Thunder experience. Wide-eyed, she could hardly believe what she was seeing. All around us, people were clapping and screaming their approval. Planners at the Ballet party told me the whole thing was a huge success, so I'm glad to know the Ballet was benefitting from Thunder.
And I guess we should have stayed for the whole Wax Fang show, but there was that long walk back to the Seelbach, and our personal gas tank was nearing empty.
Photo: Rick Redding