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Thunder Over Louisville, the annual kickoff event of the Kentucky Derby Festival, is an airshow and fireworks display in Louisville, Kentucky. It is generally held each April, about two weeks before the first Saturday in May, or Derby Day. In years where Easter Sunday falls on the usually scheduled weekend, Thunder is moved a week earlier. It is the largest annual fireworks display in North America and began as part of an opening ceremonies event in 1989 with daytime fireworks. 1990 brought the first nighttime fireworks event. It officially began in its current location along the Ohio River in 1991 with fireworks, and an annual air show was added in 1992.
Thunder generally starts in the afternoon with an air show, followed by the fireworks show starting at 9:30 PM, along with a synchronized soundtrack through PA and radio. An average of 625,000 people have attended each year since 1997, lining the banks of the Ohio River in Louisville, and across the river in Jeffersonville and Clarksville, Indiana. Some also watch from the river on boats, docked in positions auctioned off for charity.Eight 400-foot barges launch the fireworks, provided by Zambelli Fireworks Internationale, from both sides of the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge (Second Street Bridge), and more fireworks are launched from the bridge itself.
In the twenty-first century the estimated attendance at Thunder has usually been approximately five times that of the main attraction, the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs.