Thunder Over Louisville fireworks from past years were held on the city's waterfront. WDRB File

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Watch for the Thunder Over Louisville fireworks over five communities instead of the city waterfront.

With the theme of "Illuminating Our Community," the Kentucky Derby Festival says it is planning to take the traditional fireworks and a limited air show to the skies over the city on Saturday, April 17.

Complete details won't be released about fireworks locations until the day of the show, but Festival president and CEO Matt Gibson says the 18-minute fireworks show will happen at the traditional 9:30 p.m. in locations to the north, south, east and west in Louisville and a fifth location in southern Indiana.

Thunder producer Wayne Hettinger says a "reimagining" of Thunder began last August with plans to prevent 500,000 people gathering on the waterfront. Gibson says it's important that people who may discover the locations for the fireworks not gather to watch. He says if crowds gather, then it may impact whether the pyrotechnics can be fired safety.

The Thunder airshow has a Category 3 air box approved over the city. Gibson says the planned two-hour show will include some fly-bys and aerobatics over neighborhoods. He admits the show won't be the same as in years past, but he adds that the airshow will be packed with aircraft including the Kentucky Air National Guard's C-130s, A-10s, T-38s, F-16s a U.S. Air Force tanker, U.S. Army helicopters, Tuskeegee Airmen and other aircraft flying around the community. Matt Younkin will perform both day and night shows. 

The airshow will also include the Festival's first drone show for Thunder. The Great Lakes Drone Show out of Michigan is known for its nighttime swarm formations in a variety of shapes and 3-dimensional formations.

Gibson says once we are safely past the pandemic the Festival plans to move the Thunder Over Louisville celebration back to the waterfront. He also thanked corporate sponsors to keeping the event funded in 2021 including Caesars Southern Indiana, Ford Motor Company, GE Appliances, a Haier company, LG&E, Meijer; Papa John’s, and UPS along with Command Center Sponsor: Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport and The Official Hotel: The Galt House.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of last year's airshow and fireworks, and the Festival is making changes to events for this year because of the pandemic.

KDF announced in early March that the Pegasus Parade will be the first big event of the Festival on Saturday, April 10, and Sunday, April 11. The parade won't march down Broadway this year. Instead, it will have a "touring parade" that will travel 60 miles over two days into 35 neighborhoods. The theme will be "A Tribute to the Community."

Festival organizers are also asking people in Louisville and around the area to decorate their front porches, yards and even cars to reflect the spirit of the Festival. Gibson says everyone can post pictures on social media with the hashtags of #pegasusporchparade #derbyfestivalspirit. 

The Festival is also having some big giveaways in its special Thunder at Home section on its website including a Meijer Backyard Thunder Sweeps, which includes a $4,500 prize pack with everything you need to throw a party. 

The Festival's ultimate Thunder VIP Watch Party sponsored by Papa Johns allows the public to enter to win the contest. 

For information about Thunder Over Louisville including family activities, food and drink ideas, zoom backgrounds and Thunder gear, go to

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