850x100 Banner

Things to do:

728x90 Banner

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review of Thunder Over Louisville: the family perspective


Photobucket
The Derby Festival officially kicked off this past weekend with Thunder Over Louisville, which features an extensive air show and North America’s largest annual fireworks show. The first year we lived here I wasn’t sure about staying for both or not, or how to best navigate parking and the huge crowds with my young son. Add to that the drizzly & cold weather and we decided to just watch on TV. We were really impressed by the show, so decided that if the weather was tolerable next time we’d go in person and this year we did.

PhotobucketIt was a cool day, heavy jacket weather, and the rains stopped at least a couple of hours before the air show was set to begin at 2:30pm. I really recommend trying to carpool to make parking easier and more affordable, which we did. We started seeing parking lots while still at least a couple of miles away, for $10 or $15. As we got closer the price went up to $20 for most and a few for $30 or more. We found a private lot that would put us out facing the right way to follow the appropriate express route, where police are in place to help direct traffic. See here for that information. 

Photobucket
We were lucky enough to be with someone who works in one of the many buildings downtown, so we had a home base and place to stow our stuff, but had it all in one back pack that was easy enough to carry had we wanted or needed to. We ate lunch before leaving and so packed our refillable water bottles and lots of snacks, money for dinner, as well as extra clothes for our youngest, our camera, and some small games we could play if we had any down time between shows.

We started at the Belvedere area, a Pegasus Pin only entry, which then lead to a few different private areas. If you did not pre-purchase one, you could buy one for $5 each nearby. These help support this event, as well as other fun Derby Festival activities, and gains you entry into more than 30 festival events & concerts. We had wristband access for the Meijer Family Fun Zone. The gatekeepers were very careful to let only families into this area and there were several activities to do, as well as a good spot for looking up to see the many aircraft that took part in the air show. We could even hear the announcements about the planes when close to the waterfront. There were a couple of inflatables, food samples, and several tables with games where you spin a wheel and answer food related questions to win a variety of small prizes for various aged children. They also passed out fun little light up stick necklaces for later once it got dark. The kids had a really great time here and the smaller crowd was perfect for us. Everyone working in this family zone was friendly and helpful. It was nice and clean. There was a long row of port-a-lets without any waiting in line and the one we looked in was also clean. This alone was worth trying to win or pick up the wrist bands for entry as the lines we saw closer to the main venue were very long. They only give out a certain number of wristbands, so this fun zone stays much less crowded than the main area at Waterfront Park, were we went next.
Photobucket

To get there, we walked on Main and turned on one of the connecting streets to River Rd. to see the steam boats. There were at least a half dozen food vendors in that area with reasonable lines, especially considering it was approaching dinner time. From there we continued to the main area and checked out the Chow Wagon area, which requires a Pegasus Pin to enter. There were many choices of food vendors here and a lot more people. At some points, it was hard to navigate through while still staying together, but not as stressful as I had anticipated. We did encounter people openly smoking as they walked through narrow areas and I wish they had smoking areas set aside, like at most amusement parks.

The next area over is the main viewing venue, which you also need a Pegasus Pin for, and the area was electric with energy from all the people walking talking, and watching the air show. There were people with wacky hats, noisemakers, and we even saw a fun person in a Chewbacca costume who danced and posed for several snapshots.

PhotobucketAfter a while, we made our way back up Main St. back towards the Belvedere area. We played games, drew, ate the food we picked up at one of the vendors, and continued to enjoy the air show, which by now had been happening off and on for 5 or 6 hours!  There was a large selection of air craft throughout, from older smaller planes to modern jets and all sorts of different sizes. We marveled at the stunts they performed earlier in the day and were delighted to watch them as it grew dark. Shortly before the fireworks show, one even looked like it had trails of sparklers coming from it.

They fireworks show started with enormous US flags flying by while patriotic music played. Then the sky lit up over and over again with dazzling colors, sizes, heights, types, and even shapes of fireworks all set to a great soundtrack. We were thoroughly captivated and especially loved the fireworks waterfall off the bridge. The finale was great and the encore was awesome. The whole thing lasted about half an hour and was truly the best pyrotechnic display we have ever seen. Watching it on tv previously was great, but seeing it in person can’t be beat and was well worth the effort. Parts of it, and the air show, obviously can get pretty loud and if you have young or sensitive children with you, you probably want to bring ear plugs and plan where you’ll view this terrific show based on where they predict the smoke will flow.

After we gathered our stuff, we joined the throngs of people heading to their vehicles and could really see how big the crowds had been. There was one incident on our way to the car that was a little scary. Some kids on a hotel balcony were arguing with some kids on the ground and threw some bottles down which barely missed hitting us. I stopped to inform the police officer directing people at the next crosswalk and he said he’d try to let someone know, which was disappointing. The rest of the officers we observed throughout the day had been helpful and seemed to have things in good order though and we are grateful for their hard work. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised that this had been the first incident we’d noticed, considering the sheer number of people there.

Getting out of the parking lot took a bit, as did traveling on the express route out of downtown, but people were courteous and friendly overall and I think traffic was moving along as expected since almost everyone poured out of there at one time. It took us about an hour to get home once to our vehicle as opposed to the normal 20-25 minute drive, which I thought was not bad at all.

This was a great fun long day for our whole family, including our young son and our teenager. There were things we did not check out, like the bands or even the other entertainment like the public children’s area, because we preferred to stay in the less crowded more family oriented areas. I am glad there are places for both, so that adults can celebrate the kick off to Derby season while those with younger families can have fun too. We also appreciate the many options of enjoying Thunder, from as little as the $5 cost of a Pegasus Pin per person (you can buy them in advance for less) up to a more expensive and exclusive limited crowd viewing area with other amenities. We hope to be able to again enjoy the Meijer Family Fun Zone. We felt very comfortable and welcome there since we had young kiddos with us and were with others who did too. Once our son is much older, we might explore the larger crowds to see how many friends we run into and to see how it is watching the show shoulder to shoulder with the energy of so many people. After all, variety is the spice of life!

By guest contributor: Angela

No comments: