Vendors hope for big economic impact as weather forecast shines on Thunder Over Louisville
Hundreds of thousands of people expected in downtown Louisville this weekend, and local businesses are looking to the skies so more money can go into their wallets.
LOUISVILLE, Ky (WDRB) -- Hundreds of thousands of people are expected in downtown Louisville this weekend, and local businesses are looking to the skies so more money can go into their wallets.
Many of the 50 vendors for the Kentucky Derby Festival's “Chow Wagon” began setting up Tuesday morning for what is typically their busiest and most profitable festival of the year.
“Last week, it looked like rain, and this week the forecast looks beautiful for the weekend: 65 and sunny. So we’re excited this year,” said Brian Foegen, who owns two vendor stands and has 15 employees who will be working during Thunder Over Louisville.
In 2017, attendance along the riverfront dropped by nearly 200,000 than in previous years due to a rainy and chilly forecast.
“Financially, we were about 50 percent of the year for Thunder, so it hurt last year," Foegen said. "Hopefully this year, we can make it up."
Many of the vendors arrive from all over the Midwest and South and depend heavily on the "Thunder" crowd.
“Last year, we were very disappointed in crowds and sales," said Peggy Colp, who has been attending the festival for 25 years. "But, you know, it happens every few years here. The weather for the next few days looks awesome, so we are expecting a great vendor.”
Across the river in Jeffersonville, restaurants are hoping this year is better than last.
KingFish Seafood has a front-row view of the fireworks and is nearly sold out. They’ll be all hands on deck for their viewing party.
“It’s the biggest day of the year," Assistant Manager Lacy Barnes said. "It’s the one day of the year we are only reservations. We’re just peeling a lot of shrimp, prepping a lot of fish and doing a lot of cleaning.”
In 2011, Thunder had a local economic impact of $56 million. Everyone already setting up at Waterfront park hopes this year could be a repeat of that, if not more.
“It takes a long time for our businesses to roll into town and get set up," Colp said. "There is a lot of work to it, so we’ll be out here every day getting ready. Everybody is just in such great spirits with Thunder coming, and it puts everybody in a great mood.”
Officials said the crowd was just over 250,000 last year, and this weekend, it could be at least twice that, if not more.
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