Arts and Culture

Thunder Over Louisville returned to Waterfront Park on Saturday, after COVID-19 forced the Kentucky Derby Festival kick-off event to be canceled in 2020 and scaled back with pop-up sites last year.

The Derby-season staple started in 1989 and has since grown into one of the country’s largest fireworks and aircraft spectacles, drawing hundreds of thousands of people to the city. 

The theme of this year’s comeback show was fittingly called “The Legend Returns.” 

Spectators started claiming the best viewing spots early Saturday morning, more than 12 hours before the famous fireworks display began. 

“With us being closed in for the last two years, it feels good to be in sunshine and open-air,” Tyhittian Waters said.

Waters set up outside of Slugger Field around 9 a.m., though some family members were there even earlier. It was the Louisville native’s first time watching the show up close.

Lynn Perti and her husband, Robert, usually watch the fireworks from Jeffersonville’s waterfront, but they crossed the river this year to celebrate Thunder’s return.

Petri said they arrived at 7 a.m. to find a parking spot near Slugger Field, where they planned to watch the fireworks after a baseball game.

“The parking can be a problem, unless you want to spend $50 to $100,” Petri said. “Plus the fact it’s just kind of neat to people watch.”

More people set up tents and grills even closer to the river.

David Crowdus, who’s watched Thunder from the waterfront for years, said it’s his favorite Derby event

“They’ve really hyped this up,” he said “I think it is gonna be the best one.” 

Others, like 8-year-old Wyatt Jones, experienced the show from the waterfront for the first time.

Jones said his excitement helped him overcome a fear.

“Well, I’m just a little bit scared of fireworks, just a little bit,” he said. “But I think I’ll be fine with this.”

Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for WFPL.