It's been 18 years since the first Thunder lit up the sky over Louisville to open the Kentucky Derby Festival. In those years, the show has gone through changes, improvements, sponsorship issues, location changes, and all the challenges you'd expect an event of this magnitude would face.
But here we are in 2009 and we're gearing up for "Thunder Road" on Saturday, April 18. We're on the cusp one of the most anticipated events in Louisville in any year. There are some that have annual traditions and others that throw caution to the wind each year. But if you're a first-timer, here are our recommendations for having a great time on the waterfront.
5) If you're taking the kids, pick a pleasure. April 18 is going to be a long day, like Thunder day is every year. If you have younger kids, consider either the airshow (starting at 3pm) OR the fireworks (starting sometime near 9pm). Both are cool, both are part of the day. Air show attenders can get downtown early and get out before the mass exodus after the fireworks and you still get to be a part of the festivities.
4) If you're not taking the kids, stick around downtown afterwards. What's with all the focus on how to get out quickly? In 2009 there is more to do downtown than ever before and these businesses are ready to cater to you. Find some late night grub, grab a cocktail, or (weather permitting of course) find a place with outdoor seating and people watch for a couple more hours while the traffic thins out.
3) Prepare for weather of any kind. In past years, it's been both scorching or freezing so prepare for both. Dress in layers and start stripping them away (not too far!) when and if the day heats up. You don't want to be the guy wearing shorts in 40 degree rain.
2) Wear your walkin' shoes. They say to park as far away from "ground zero" as you can to facillitate an easy getaway (see #4) but either way you'll probably be hoofing it all day. Bathrooms, concessions, sightseeing...it's all there but it's all going to require some walking.
1) Pack a "murphy kit". Include a roll of toilet paper, some baby wipes, hand sanitizer, bandaids, sunglasses, extra socks, a poncho, and even perhaps a spare set of clothes in case it turns into a recreation of Woodstock down there.