#KDF2015: Thunder Over Louisville 2015

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Last weekend I had the opportunity to go photograph the Thunder Over Louisville 2015, the Kentucky Derby Festival kickoff. Yes, this sounds more like horse races, and yes, it’s related. During the 2 weeks before the Kentucky Derby, there is a festival that starts with an airshow and a fireworks display, and other events follow throughout the next 2 weeks, including a steamboat race, a balloon race, a marathon and mini marathon.

Unlike typical airshows, where people congregate at an airport or military base, Thunder Over Louisville is held over the Ohio River, and can be viewed from the Louisville Riverfront, and from Jeffersonville (Indiana). Pro-tip for photographers: The Indiana shore is backlit during most of the show. According to the media guide, previous guesstimations put the attendance between 300,000 and 800,000, but an exact number can’t really be obtained because of the unusual setup, which allows the shot to be viewed from other streets, hotels, office buildings, the river, etc.

This unusual setup, however, brought one of 2015’s big show problems: The show typically takes place right by the I-65 and US-31/2nd St bridges, and this year, as part of the $2.5 billion Ohio River Bridges Project, two tower cranes appeared next to the I-65 bridge (word around the internet is that tower cranes magically appear where they are needed), and thus there were extra obstacles for the airshow. The FAA only approved a 2-ship demo for the Thunderbirds, and in general there were less performers this year. The cranes were 250ft or so above the Ohio river, and had red flags hanging from the ends so that the pilots could visualize them, those flags were placed by the Louisville Fire Department, who considered this a training exercise.

Other performers included the U.S. Army Golden Knights (who parachuted as the National Anthem was sung), The Trojan Horsemen, The Canadian Harvards, Acemaker T-33, and the Warbird Heritage Foundation’s F-86F and P-51. A notable performance was the 123rd Airlift Wing (Kentucky ANG), a simulated candy drop over Berlin from a C-130, Col. Gail Halvorsen, who had the idea of the candy drops was a guest of honor at the show. For more on the candy drop, head to the official PR from the 123rd AW http://www.123aw.ang.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123445547 .

Unfortunately, this year I discovered that I do have a limit of how long I can be sitting on a cooler without moving places, 7 hours or so, so next year I will prepare better to be able to stay all the way to the fireworks, and maybe go to the balloon race as well.

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