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Volunteer Effort Scheduled for The Kentucky Derby Festival

Mayor Greg Fischer announced on Wednesday that The Kentucky Derby Festival will add another week to its schedule.

It’s called Give a Day and for one week before Thunder Over Louisville it asks individuals, businesses and non-profits to volunteer their service throughout the week.

“When I talk to people about this they all say what can I do? Where can I sign up? People would be embarrassed to say they’re against helping people so let’s use that guilt to get them out there. It would be good therapy for them,” said Fischer.

The goal is to set a record for the largest service-day effort in the world, he said.

“We mobilized a lot of people in January. We had hundreds of volunteers tackling over 100 projects in a very short period of time. So I know we can do this,” said Fischer.

A similar week of service will happen this fall, between Oct.17-23. Fischer encouraged businesses and non-profits to propose creative projects that will help the volunteer effort. The city has partnered with Metro United Way, which helped organize volunteer efforts with Fischer back in January.

Rev. Bo Stillwell is founder and CEO of Keeping It Real. It’s a non-profit organization that works on poverty issues in Louisville. He plans to organize an effort to concentrate on vacant houses in Louisville’s Westside.

“And at least one day clean maybe 10, 15, 20, 30, 100 yards up during that day if we could,” he said.

Thirty-one projects have signed up through Metro United so far, said Kelly Garvey, director of engagement initiatives for Metro United. That number is expected to double by the fall, she said.

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With River Rising, Metro Parks Makes “Thunder” Adjustments

In response to flooding along the Ohio River, Louisville Metro Parks officials have announced some adjustments to parking and other rules for Saturday’s Thunder Over Louisville.

Cox Park will be closed to vehicular traffic due to flooding. Thunder patrons can park at nearby Thurman Hutchins Park and walk to nearby points to view the aircraft and fireworks shows.

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Kentucky Center Cancels Thunder Over Louisville Event

Officials with the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts have canceled their Thunder Over Louisville event this year.

For the past four years, center patrons have had exclusive access to the western portion of the belvedere, even though it’s not included in the center’s contract with the Derby Festival. This year, the Derby Festival has found a sponsor for a new event on the belvedere, and the center cannot use all of the space.

“We tried to offer them more space. Not as much space as they’ve taken in past years, but more space than was contracted and its part of an effort to ensure public space on the belvedere,” says festival spokesperson Aimee Boyd.

Kentucky Center spokesperson David Holland says the full space is essential to the center’s event, and festival officials told the center less than a week ago that full access would not be granted.

“You know that means it was less than a month before Thunder Over Louisville and since we really didn’t have time to revise any of our marketing materials or really inform the public and since the pricing of the event was really based on having all of that space in the back we really had no choice but to cancel the event for this year,” says Holland.

Holland says patrons who have already purchased tickets will receive a refund.

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Local News Politics

Ackerson Hopes To Keep Waterfront Park Lawn Free For Thunder Visitors

A Louisville Metro Councilman is hoping to keep all of Waterfront Park free and open for this year’s Thunder Over Louisville.

Derby Festival officials changed the seating rules this year to charge visitors to sit in one portion of the park. About ten percent of the Great Lawn will be fenced off for this year’s fireworks show. Visitors will need a Pegasus Pin to enter the area.

Festival president Mike Berry told a Metro Council committee Tuesday the change will stop early visitors from staking large claims in the lawn and blocking others from getting the best views. The sales of the pins will offset the cost of guarding the area.

“This was not just those of us who are behind the scenes in Thunder. I think the public was realizing as well that there were challenges when it comes to this area and the civility,” he said. “Safety and security is always the most important part of our events.”

Metro Councilman Brent Ackerson says it’s unfair to charge people to visit the park, and he told Berry he wants to find a way around the fee.

“For the $20,000 cost I hope to talk to my colleagues to see if we might be able to off-set that to where you all might consider still fencing off the area if that’s the security concern but at the same time still making it free to those in this area that otherwise would like to go but maybe discouraged by that additional family charge,” he said.

The money would likely come out of the council members’ discretionary funds.

Pegasus Pins cost $4 in advance and $5 at the gate.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Ackerson Has Nine Questions For Derby Festival Officials

As reported earlier, Metro Councilman Brent Ackerson has taken issue with a change to seating for Thunder Over Louisville. Ackerson says it’s unfair for the Derby Festival to require visitors purchase a Pegasus Pin to sit in a section of the Great Lawn in Waterfront Park.

Derby Festival officials will appear before the Metro Council’s Parks, Libraries, Zoo and Cultural Assets Committee Tuesday at 5:00. Ackerson has released nine questions he wants them to answer. WFPL will have a summary of the hearing shortly after it happens.

Here are the nine questions:

  1. If staking out portions of the Great Lawn and volleyball courts are a problem, then wouldn’t the simpler and more cost effective solution be to ban such activity and allow police officers to patrol those areas to enforce such a ban?  Aren’t officers already patrolling the area?
  2. Won’t fencing areas with limited entry/exit points further cause crowd control issues at the end of the evening by bottlenecking pedestrian flow?
  3. Exactly which areas of the Great Lawn and Waterfront Park area will be fenced to accommodate the 50000 people, restroom facilities, and vending areas?  Which areas are to remain free to the public?  Do the maps contained as part of the License Agreement fully define the areas which are free and which are to be fenced?
  4. Has there been any discussion with the Derby Festival organization about the increase in revenue from the proposed fenced portions of the Great Lawn and the other parts of the park?  If so, what are the expected increases in funds or revenues?
  5. We’ve been told of increases in the costs of fencing the area at issue.  What are these projected costs and how do such compare to the estimated Derby Pin sales increase from this new “pin-for-entry” requirement?
  6. With regard to the proposed fenced area, how many extra restrooms are proposed to be added within this area, as compared to the restroom facilities availability in previous years when the area was not fenced?  What are the additional costs for these extra restroom facilities?  Will there be a decrease of such facilities in other areas that are not being fenced?
  7. With regard to the proposed fenced area, how many extra vending facilities are proposed to be added within this area, as compared to the vending facilities available in previous years when the area was not fenced?  What is the projected revenue from any new vending facilities within the proposed fenced area?  Will there be a decrease of such facilities in other areas that are not being fenced?
  8. Will there be police assigned to the fenced area of the park, and if so, will such officers be taken from other areas or will there be additional officers assigned to the fenced area?  Who is paying for these police officers, and what is the projected cost for any additional police solely within the fenced area?
  9. With regard to the problems which KDF claims it is attempting to solve this year with the proposed fencing of certain areas of the park, what other solutions were discussed or proposed, did these other solutions have costs involved with such (and if so what were they in comparison to the solution to fence the area at issue), and what were the reasons why the other solutions were abandoned in favor of the one presently proposed?
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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Amid Complaints Over Thunder Seating, Derby Festival Director To Speak With Metro Council Committee

Derby Festival executive director Mike Berry will talk with members of the Metro Council Tuesday.

Berry is scheduled to address the Parks, Libraries, Zoo and Cultural Assets Committee about the festival. His appearance coincides with rising complaints about a change to Thunder Over Louisville seating arrangements.

Pegasus Pins—which cost $4—will be required to enter a portion of the Great Lawn at Waterfront Park. Community groups and at least one council member have complained about the change, saying it’s unfair for festival officials to charge visitors to sit in the park.

Festival officials have said the change is meant to stop early visitors from reserving large portions of the space. Further, they say only about 10 percent of the lawn will be fenced off.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Ackerson Considering Taking Up Thunder Seating Change In Council

A change in seating rules for Thunder Over Louisville has drawn complaints from community groups, and now the Metro Council may get involved.

Last week, it was announced that a northern section of the Great Lawn at Waterfront Park would not be first-come first-served for the fireworks show. Visitors will need a $4 or $5 Pegasus Pin to enter the area. Metro Councilman Brent Ackerson says that’s unfair.

“A lot of those are folks that cannot afford to go the Galt House or go to other areas or parties that cost money,” he says. “So this is a way for families that are struggling in tough economic times to enjoy the same benefits and the same enjoyments that a lot of other folks in the city in an event this city sponsors and pays much of.”

Ackerson says he’s considering asking the Government Accountability Committee to look into the matter.

“I want to look into this. I want to examine who authorized this, what sort of deals or negotiations had been going on about this. Because, ultimately, this just popped on our radar: ‘Here you go, we’re going to charge people.’ I think it’s ridiculous,” he says.

The African-American Think Tank voiced similar complaints last week. Derby Festival officials replied that the section of lawn that will be fenced off is small. They added that visitors to past events complained that people were staking out large spots on the lawn early in the day and edging out latecomers. Festival officials did not update their statement when presented with Ackerson’s complaint.

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Thunder Seating Changes And Derby Festival Updates

Derby Festival officials Tuesday gave an update on the annual Thunder Over Louisville fireworks show.

The major sponsors of the display have returned, and the April 16th show will share the festival’s superhero theme. For the first time ever, the north section of the Great Lawn of Waterfront Park will no longer be first-come, first-served. Rather, attendees will need to purchase a Pegasus Pin to enter.

The first notable change to the festival was announced last week, when officials dropped the word “Kentucky” from the event’s title. Spokesperson Mark Shallcross says the name change was not meant to create an opportunity for sponsorships.

“We are still the Kentucky Derby Festival it’s just a short hand version and helps with our marketing and advertising campaign, but we are still the Kentucky Derby Festival and we will remain so,” he says.

Shallcross says changes to the marathon and mini marathon routes have generated a few complaints, but they’ve been minimal.

“We’ve had a handful of people who were disappointed about the course change and have asked for a refund and we’re just dealing with that on a case by case basis, but anytime you have 38 years of starting the race in the same location in the south end and you change that there’s going to be some people disappointed with that and we expected that,” he says.

Shallcross says the change was made after participants said they wanted both races to have the same starting and finishing lines. The races will start on Main Street in front of the Slugger Museum and finish at Preston and Witherspoon streets.

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"Thunder" Kicks Off Kentucky Derby Festival

By Rick Howlett

An estimated 700,000 people lined the banks of the Ohio River Saturday night for the annual Thunder Over Louisville air and fireworks show.             

The fireworks display, touted as one of the largest in the world, was delayed nearly 20 minutes by a computer malfunction, but went off without any problems once the issue was resolved.       

Thunder Over Louisville is the official kickoff of the two-week Kentucky Derby Festival.

Festival activities continue Sunday with the grand re-opening of the Kentucky Derby Musuem, which has been undergoing a renovation since it was damaged by a flash flood last year.

(File photo courtesy of the Kentucky Derby Festival)

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Thunder Pilot Prepares For Show In Small Airspace

by Gabe Bullard

Pilots are practicing now for Saturday’s Thunder Over Louisville air show, and while clear skies are predicted, many fliers will face unique challenges.

Thunder is held in a smaller space than many air shows, and stunt pilot Michael Wiskus says he’s taking precautions to keep his biplane between the bridges and above the river.

“Normally at air shows, you’re over a runway and you’ve got all this length and all this time and all this altitude and no end restrictions or anything like that and it’s never a problem,” he says. “In this case, you’ve got a lot of barriers around that you’ve got to keep an eye on and make sure you keep your distance with.”

This is Wiskus’ second year flying in Thunder. The air show begins at 3:00 and ends at 9:30. It’s followed by fireworks.