Kentucky Derby Festival expecting better year than last - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky Derby Festival expecting better year than last

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - It is looking to be a great year for the Kentucky Derby Festival. Weather has a lot to do with attendance and making money, and so far, things are off to a sunny start.

This time last year, much of the riverfront was underwater. Thunder can draw a crowd as big as 700,000, but last year, only 250,000 showed up.

Each year, vendors travel near and far to set up booths at the Chow Wagon. It is the eighth year David Austin has traveled from Orlando, Florida to set up his booths. "There's all kinds of costs, you got hotel expenses, gas expenses," said Austin.

Last year, the trek was not worth it for some vendors. Park benches were swallowed up, and the River Walk disappeared. Thunder day was cold and wet, and spectators cuddled up under blankets and umbrellas. The Ohio was encroaching on Thunder territory, and when the weather is bad, the crowds just are not there.

Kentucky Derby Festival officials say it was the most challenging Thunder in its 50-year run. "We've worked last year and learned really how high up the water does come on the waterfront, I think that's the highest it's ever been," said Aimee Boyd, with the Derby Festival.

The weather changed the whole scope of the festival, not just Thunder. The steamboat race was postponed until June. But some of the changes swung in the right direction, like the new location for the million dollar hole-in-one competition. "When we moved to Seneca Park last year, we decided that was a good location, higher ground, so we're actually staying there this year."

Other events changed for the better, too. "The winefest on the Belvedere, it got flooded last year on the overlook and we moved it to the Belvedere and it seemed like the perfect place for that wine event."

Weather looks to be shaping up, and we definitely aren't dealing with high water. "We still have our Thunder faithful that come down to the waterfront no matter what the weather just to see the show. So we're excited that the weather forecast gets better and we hope it'll hang in there for the rest of festival," said Boyd.

While the weather is looking nice for the afternoon air show, bring blankets and sweatshirts for the fireworks at night.

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