Thunder over Louisville Fireworks

The Kentucky Derby Festival recently announced that the 2018 Thunder Over Louisville event theme will be “Disco Thunder” with the fireworks accompanied by hits from that era.

Horseshoe Southern Indiana, LG&E, Meijer, UPS and Valero return as presenting sponsors of the day-long event set for Saturday, April 21. Every year, Thunder Over Louisville draws record crowds from throughout the region and the country to Louisville. The event continues to wow locals and visitors alike, thanks to the behind-the-scenes work of many local and regional companies.

“Without the support of these generous sponsors, we couldn’t produce the Thunder show the public has come to expect and anticipate, said Mike Berry, Kentucky Derby Festival President and CEO. “Their sponsorship really is a gift to the entire community.”

For UPS, this marks the 28th consecutive year as a presenting sponsor for the event. “It’s a part of our culture to give back to the area where our employees live and work,” said Michelle Polk, UPS Airlines Public Relations. “With UPS Airlines headquartered in Louisville, it only makes sense for that partnership to occur,” she said.

Polk said the event is something for the community to look forward to every year. “We live here, work here, we play here. It’s about friends and neighbors, and making the community a real part of it. I think the 5-year old kid comes out in anyone watching the fireworks. And for the first time in the Thunder airshow, we had a completely all-female flight crew from the aircraft maintenance on up to flight deck. It put a light on them in a positive way, and let people know all kinds of careers are available for women in aviation, not just pilots.”

A real treat

Chris Whelan, Vice President of Communications for LG&E, said that 12 years ago, she was the one who pushed her company to become a presenting sponsor for Thunder, and it’s been a great relationship ever since. “It’s a fantastic event that’s free to the community. So many of our sponsorships in the community involve helping our most vulnerable customers, environment and education,” said Whelan.

But Thunder Over Louisville, which brings $60 million into the community, is also an event that blends well with LG&E’s desire to spur economic development in the city and state, she said.

“For visitors who haven’t been to Louisville, it’s a real treat, said Whelan. “At Thunder, and even those three or four weeks prior, our city really shines. It makes me proud to be a Louisvillian, and Kentuckian.”

Meijer, a family-owned company is a perfect fit for a family-friendly event like Thunder Over Louisville, said Bruce Salyer, Store Director. The company has been a presenting sponsor for the last 12 years. “Our company’s philosophy is all about family values,” Salyer said.

For Thunder, Meijer showcases that family environment with their Meijer Family Fun Zone on the lawn at the waterfront. The area is open to anyone with a Pegasus Pin, and offers families a respite area. “It’s an enclosed area where we have games and face painting for the kids,” said Salyer. “There are also food trucks and free ice cream. It’s a great way to give back to our customers and the community.”

Salyer, who sits on the Festival board, said he sees all the volunteer involvement it takes to make Thunder happen. “It’s area schools, churches, fire and police departments. It’s not all about dollars and cents; it’s amazing to see people from all walks of life coming together helping because they’re part of the community, and care about the community.”

Part of the community

Brad Siegel, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Horseshoe Casino, a Thunder sponsor for the last 19 years, said the company is happy to be involved and supportive of great events like Thunder because they are part of the community.

“We have 1,300 team members who take a lot of pride in it. It embodies everything terrific about this area – so many of us love and enjoy living here and that’s encapsulated in Thunder,” he said.

Noel Lagunas, Director of Wholesale Marketing, for Valero, said sponsoring Thunder for a fifth year provides many benefits for his company, and the community.

“We not only can promote our Valero-branded sites for our dealers and distributors but it’s also a great way to say thanks to the good folks of Louisville for being great customers coming to our locations,” said Lagunas.

Lagunas said he also has been impressed with the professionalism and caring of the Kentucky Derby Festival staff. “Last year, my predecessor passed away from brain cancer. Before he passed, they arranged for him to get a certificate from the Mayor. It was cool to see his face light up. They went way beyond what they needed to do, and it touched our hearts,” said Lagunas. “Not only are they great to work with, but they are really great people.”

For all the details on this year’s show, visit