Now in its 23rd year, Thunder Over Louisville continues to deliver a pyrotechnics spectacular like no other. Created as the Opening Ceremonies of the Kentucky Derby Festival, it offers an explosive kick-off to two entire weeks of celebration in Louisville, Kentucky and Southern Indiana. With an estimated average attendance of half a million people, it has become the largest annual event in its region.
The show continues to be the largest annual pyrotechnics display in North America thanks to the artistry of Zambelli Internationale and the production of Visual Presentations.
"It's the kind of show you have to see to believe", says Matt Gibson, Derby Festival Vice President of Events. "We have great television coverage of the event, but unless you are there in person, you can't FEEL the fireworks pounding in your chest and the concrete vibrate underneath your feet. Thunder is the kind of show that needs to be felt and not just seen and heard."
Staging the pyrotechnic spectacular of Thunder each year for the Derby Festival is the First Family of Fireworks. Zambelli Fireworks Internationale first became involved with Thunder Over Louisville in 1991. The annual show is larger than the opening and closing ceremonies of the Atlanta and Barcelona Olympics combined. According to the Zambelli's it is unchallenged as the largest annual pyrotechnic production in North America.
To assemble a show the size of Thunder, Zambelli Internationale utilizes eight tractor trailers filled with nearly 60 tons of fireworks shells. The physical set-up includes 250 tons of launching tubes, some as high as 10 feet with a diameter of 1 and 1/2 feet. Two million pounds of sand will pack the firing tubes on 1,800 feet of barges. Almost 700 miles of wire cable connecting 20 firing boards are tied to the command post for synchronization to the music. This is the largest show the Zambellis perform each year and the Zambellis are the largest fireworks family in the world.
The magic of Thunder is in the formula of the show says Wayne Hettinger, Show Director and owner of Visual Presentations. "Each year, people think we make the show longer to be the largest show and that's just not the case. The secret with Thunder has been to pack as much firepower into 28 minutes as possible and produce a series of 'finales'." Hettinger has it down to a science working with the team from Zambelli to create a heart-stopping, eye-popping show.
"It all starts with the music", continues Hettinger. "We work to lay out a soundtrack that most everyone will be able to relate to a couple of songs. This enables people to bring their own experience with these songs and project them into the show they're watching. It's very gratifying to see people start to move and react to their favorite cuts of the soundtrack and it gives Zambelli the foundation on which to build the show."