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Thunder Over Louisville is Saturday, meaning that day will likely be the busiest of the year for downtown Louisville.

Nearly 800,000 people are expected to flood into downtown Louisville and southern Indiana for the event. A surging Ohio River isn’t expected to diminish the crowd size for the annual fireworks spectacle that kicks off the two-week Kentucky Derby Festival, said Matt Gibson, a Kentucky Derby Festival planner.

Here are some of the things you’ll need to know to attend Thunder.

Street Closures

Louisville police will be redirecting traffic and closing some streets in downtown.

The first closure will be the Second Street Bridge, said Lt. Joe Seeyle, commander of Louisville Metro Police’s traffic unit. That bridge will close to traffic at 9:30 a.m. Thursday and stay closed until about 2 p.m. Sunday. Interstate 65 traffic will be halted hours before showtime on Saturday. The Big Four pedestrian bridge will shut down at 10 a.m. Saturday.

A new traffic move for this year’s Thunder celebration will be the diverting traffic between Sixth and 10th streets to the west, Seeyle said.

The reversal of traffic to the west will help get cars more quickly onto the Ninth Street onramp to I-64, he added.

For a complete list of street closures, click here.

Parking

Police encourage everyone to plan their routes before heading downtown. East End residents should consider parking east of First Street; West End residents to park west of Third Street, Seeyle said. Residents coming from south of downtown should consider parking south of Muhammad Ali Boulevard.

Also, Seeyle said it’s best to park as far as you can from the event, or park close to express routes.

The express routes are designed to move traffic as quickly as possible. Exiting the downtown area could take as long as two hours following the event, police said.

What Not To Bring

This year the Federal Aviation Adminstration is placing a ban on drones within a five mile radius around the fireworks event, police said.

A drone could shut down the air show and lead to an $11,000 fine for the operator.

Gibson said the “no drone zone” will be strictly enforced.

“Over 65 percent of those go down at some point and you can imagine that no one wants to encounter a drone while they’re at a fireworks show,” he said.

Other banned items include glass bottles, alcohol, bikes, skateboards, skates, pets, grills, tents and canopies.

Visitors will also not be allowed to tape or rope off large areas, Louisville Metro Police Major Kelly Jones said. Picnic blankets or tarps no larger than 10-by-10 foot will be allowed.

Food will not be permitted inside the Chow Wagon at Waterfront Park, but will be allowed on the North Great Lawn viewing area, Meijer Family Fun Zone and other areas.

Jones, who commands the departments special operations unit, said about 1,200 law enforcement officers will be on hand to assist in keeping everyone safe.

“That is always our primary objective,” he said.

He then added it takes everyone working together to ensure a fun event.

“If you’re doing something that is interfering with somebody else’s ability to enjoy the event or have a good time then you’re probably doing something you shouldn’t be,” he said.

What To Remember

Check the weather before hand, police said.

Also, look at a map and get an understanding of where you want to park, where you want to watch the show and how you will get out, officials said.

Gibson said an often underutilized area to view the show is the east side of Waterfront Park, near the Orange Lot and Big Four Bridge.

First Aid stations will be set up around the venue and a Lost Child Center will be established at the Galt House, Kelly said.

“Those are things you may need to know where they are, it might be as simple as needing a Band-Aid,” he said.

Be Patient

With up to 800,000 people expected to be in the downtown area, police encourage everyone to practice patience.

“It takes a while to get 700,000 to 800,000 people off the waterfront, but we do our very best,” Kelly said. “Just practice patience, make it a fun event, don’t let frustrations or traffic or anything else take away from the good time you could have.”

 

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.