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    The Kentucky Derby Festival is pleased to announce an unprecedented partnership between the general managers of all four local television stations with regard to broadcast rights for Thunder Over Louisville - the Derby Festival's Opening Ceremonies. WAVE, WLKY and WDRB have agreed to an annual rotation of broadcast rights for the show through 2007, with WHAS abstaining from the rotation but honoring the agreement.  A "pill-pull" was held today to determine which year each station will broadcast Thunder, which will be held this year on Saturday, April 23.

    "The spirit of cooperation between the four local stations in a highly competitive business is truly gratifying," said Mike Berry, Kentucky Derby Festival President and CEO. "We think this arrangement is fair to everyone concerned and will benefit the entire community."

    Also today, details of an enhanced "Thunder Funder" initiative to help finance Thunder - the largest annual fireworks show in the United States - were announced. The campaign will be highlighted by a televised fund-raiser that will be aired with focused coverage by all four stations on March 9. The campaign will resemble a public television funding drive, where contributors receive gifts and recognition. Contributions will be accepted by mail (Kentucky Derby Festival, 1001 South Third St., Louisville, KY 40203), internet (:// and telephone (582-BOOM). Individual packages will range from $10 to $100; corporate packages range from $1,000 to $10,000.

    To ensure continuity and a high-quality broadcast, tentative plans call for the stations to share staff members on production teams and pass the TV production playbooks from station to station each year. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.

    Thunder Over Louisville - the Derby Festival's Opening Ceremonies - is one of the more than seventy events produced by the Derby Festival in the spring. The Derby Festival is an independent community organization supported by 4,000 volunteers, 325 businesses and civic groups, Pegasus Pin sponsorships and event participation. It entertains more than 1.5 million people in a two-week period and has a local economic impact of more than $93 million. Thunder alone contributes $31 million of that estimate to both sides of the Ohio River.  This involvement has made the Festival the largest single-attended event in Kentucky and one of the leading community celebrations in the world.   

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