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Sponsors Sign On For Thunder Over Louisville

Thunder Over Louisville, the kick-off fireworks show for the Kentucky Derby Festival, will get sponsor support from six companies this year, festival officials announced Tuesday.

Horseshoe Southern Indiana, KentuckyOne Health, Louisville Gas and Electric, Meijer, UPS and Valero have signed on as presenting sponsors for the fireworks and airshow set for April 18.

The cost of the event is about $1 million, said Mike Berry, president and chief executive of the Kentucky Derby Festival. It is the largest of the Kentucky Derby Festival's 70 events and packs the largest economic impact, he added.

Berry said that even with the six presenting sponsors there "is probably a very real possibility that we will lose money on the show."

"We tend to lose money on the show every year, but how we make up for that is the public comes and supports us then through the sales of Pegasus pins," Berry said.

He said "on an average year" the return on the investment for Thunder Over Louisville comes up about $150,000 short. The only way to break even, he said, is to charge the public admission. "We don't want to do that," he added.

The entire festival has a budget of about $7 million.

As for acquiring the sponsors to ensure the event can remain free to the public, Berry said the marketing team has to "work for every dollar that they raise."

But Thunder Over Louisville, he said, is something of an easy sell.

"The community just responds so much to this event," he said.

Nearly 650,000 people attended the 2014 Thunder Over Louisville. Berry expects about the same for this year.

He also added that the event is a "stress" on city resources, such as Public Works and law enforcement.

Last year more than 1,100 law enforcement officials were stationed in and around Waterfront Park for the event, which was "more than ever before," Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad said in April 2014.

This year's Thunder Over Louisville will also include an airshow with appearances by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Army Golden Knights.

The theme of this year's event will be "Boom with a View," Berry said.

This will mark the 25th consecutive year UPS is a sponsor of the event. Horseshoe Southern Indiana has been a sponsor for 16 consecutive years. Both Louisville Gas and Electric and Meijer have been sponsoring the event for the past nine years. This will be the third year of sponsorship for KentuckyOne Health and the second year for Valero, according a news release.


Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.