Sunday, April 19, 2009

I was a Thunder Scrooge.

Thunder Over Louisville is the largest fireworks display in the world. Or maybe North America. The superlative changes year-to-year, but the point remains the same: It's the kick-off event to the Kentucky Derby Festival (KDF). And it somehow attracts eight-hundred-thousand (800,000) people to Louisville's waterfront. It's become as big as the Derby itself, with people coming from all over the world for the fireworks. I even hear people wishing each other "Happy Thunder!" as they would "Merry Christmas!" or "Happy Derby!"

I haven't been to Thunder since I was 12. Honestly, I've been a Thunder Scrooge. I love all else that is Derby -- the parties, the smiles, the Cherokee Art Fair, the Balloon Race, the backside of the track at dawn, watching the horses run, having a town full of tourists, and the bars and restaurants being open round-the-clock. But 800,000 people crammed on the waterfront, some of whom laid their blankets down at 4am, just to watch some fireworks on the river, just doesn't sound pleasant.

I could also go on a tirade about how all the millions of dollars paid for the event could feed and educate the community's less-fortunate. And don't even get me started on the environmental impact of all the planes flying overhead, some during the air show and others just carrying banners, and the emissions from the fireworks themselves. And the Stealth Bombers and F16s that entertain the crowd during the daytime while we await the fireworks show only serve to glorify war and country.

Friend-with-a-Truck, however, just loves Thunder Day. He won tickets to the baseball game at downtown Louisville Slugger Field, and we went down there with a few other friends. The company was pleasant, and we had perfect stadium seats that overlooked the river.

Yet again, no one was paying attention to the baseball game itself, but this time it wasn't dollar beers that was the distraction. It was the Air Show. The Lima Lima Airplanes flew overhead for an HOUR doing loop-dee-loops and various other formation stunts, and when they finished, several bombers kept flying around the stadium, both destroying our eardrums and being completely amazing at the same time.

I loooooved the air show. There was a home run somewhere in the game, and then the F16 did this crazy trick we liked to call the "Ascent up Mt. Fuji" where it pretty much shot straight up in the air, then just floated around, flipped, and nosedived down, then disappeared for a while before it came back with a thunderous surprise. Wars must be really really scary.

Our seats were the perfect view of the fireworks, but Friend-with-a-Truck wanted to leave the stadium and go down to the waterfront itself. Always up for an adventure, I followed, despite my previous hesitations. The trek was pretty hilarious, involving wading through funnel cake lines and the colognes of italian sausages and B.O. A woman with a stroller tried to push through the crowd, and a lovely young woman with teased hair and a foul mouth told her exactly where she should stick that stroller.

We emerged to the perfect spot, a tiny clearing in the sea of 800,000+ people where there was room to breathe, stand, sit, even dance. We had a perfect view of both bridges (fireworks cascade off the bridge and shoot up in rainbow-colored arcs while others come from floating barges), lovely southern Indiana, and a few 12-year-old cheerleaders who giggled loudly as they sat upon their boyfriend's shoulders and smoked cigarettes. And it was wildly fun, and funny, and beautiful, and the fireworks blew my mind.

So I'm not so much a Thunder Scrooge anymore. It was really spectacular, and it amazes me that Louisville can put together such an awesome event for the community. I always say that I love my job because I'm able make people smile. Making people smile and showing them a good time is every bit as important as getting a good education or recycling. So way to go, Louisville, for making almost a million people smile.

Derby time!!! So excited.

P.S. Sorry I missed the blog yesterday. I actually tried to blog Live from the Waterfront, pretty much all day long. But apparently, when you get a million people together, which means a million cell phones, the service stops working. So oh well. Review tomorrow.

Derby derby derby derby. yay!

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