♥ Kentucky Derby Festival ♥

Ahhh, the Kentucky Derby! It is a rite of Spring for Louisville. Known throughout the world, the Derby is more than just a day at the races. For the (typically) two weeks between Thunder Over Louisville and the Kentucky Derby, Louisville is abuzz with outdoor festivals, traditions, and live music. Here, I will touch on a few of the events that I did not make it to this year. I'll talk more about the events I did make it to in future blog entries.

Among the events of the Kentucky Derby Festival is the Great Balloon Fest. This consists of three separate events and takes place the weekend before the Derby. The Great Balloon Glimmer occurs on Thursday evening. It serves as the kick-off to Fest-a-ville on the Waterfront and the Chow Wagon (which I will explain in a future blog entry). Balloons light up against the evening sky as locals and visitors drink and eat to their hearts' content! The Balloon Rush Hour Race and Glow are on the Friday before Derby weekend. The race is very early in the morning, but it exciting to see the balloons take off and race to the finish line. You never know where the wind will blow them! The Glow is later that night and features the balloons lighting up to music. On the Saturday before Derby, the official Great Balloon Race occurs. Again, it is early in the morning, but quite the sight to see dozens of balloons across the sky! (Photo from Wikipedia)

Another Derby Festival tradition is the Great Steamboat Race. Unfortunately, this year, the race had to be postponed until late June because of the flooding and high water levels on the Ohio. This is a 14 mile race between at least two Steamboats, beginning and ending at the Second Street Bridge. I hope to be able to see it in June! (Photos from Wikipedia)

One other big event is the Bed Races. It was held at the new KFC Yum! Center this year. I didn't go, but I did watch it on TV! Haha! My friend, Rob, was there and he got this hilarious photo... (I hope you don't mind me using your photo, Rob!! :-)
It's pretty self-explanatory, but basically, the races consist of teams (some with crazy names and costumes) racing homemade bed-cars. There are four pushers and one driver. Needless to say, it is pretty hilarious and gets really competitive! There were a couple of spills on the slick floor, but I'm sure it was fun to be there watching it all happen!

Of course, there are many other events in the Derby Festival. It is essentially an excuse to party for two weeks! No one around here complains about it too much, though! :-)


♥ Thunder Over Louisville ♥

Thunder Over Louisville is the official kick-off for the Kentucky Derby Festival. Normally, it occurs two weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby, but this year, due to when Easter falls on the calendar, it is three weeks prior. I attended Thunder last year, and had every intention of going again this year, but rain and 40 degree temperatures along with a flooded river/muddy lawn made me decide to watch on TV from the comfort of my warm, dry home!

Thunder Over Louisville is a day-long party by the Ohio River. People pack in early on the Great Lawn and adjacent areas and set up lawn chairs and coolers. There are typical festival foods (fried anything) and drinks (booze), a few carnival rides, boat races, and beginning at 3:00pm, an air show featuring fly-overs and stunts by every type of aircraft imaginable. In my opinion, one of the best parts of the air show is during the week before Thunder when you can hear the planes arriving in the city!

The air show lasts until about 9:00pm. Then, at 9:30pm, its time for the highlight of the event...the fireworks show! It is the largest annual fireworks show in the country! It generally lasts about 20 to 30 minutes and is set to upbeat music to match the year's theme (this year's theme is Superheros). Fireworks are launched from the Clark Memorial Bridge, as well as from several huge barges strategically placed along the river. It really is an incredible sight!

One day, I'd love to watch the Thunder fireworks from a hotel room overlooking the river. But for tonight, I have to settle for watching it on television and hearing the booms from across town! Here are some of my photos from last year's (sunny and warm!) Thunder!

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