Non-profit annual festival brightens skyline, economy

UK’s Alex Musialek plays a singles match against Wake Forest at Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010. Photo by Scott Hannigan

Column by Andrew Allen

Violent explosions and vast arrays of color will light up the night sky as the sounds of seemingly infinite rounds are launched off the Second Street Bridge, an endless barrage of mortar shells raining down.

This Saturday, beginning with an air show at 5 p.m. and continuing with fireworks as darkness falls, Thunder Over Louisville will be booming.

Booming is the perfect way to describe fireworks, sure, but it is also true in terms of describing the economic boosts for the city of Louisville as well.

Signaling the start of the Derby festivities, Thunder Over Louisville is the region’s largest annual event.

Thunder is the first stepping stone into the action-packed two weeks of Kentucky Derby events to come.

Although Thunder is only one event of more than 70 others in the Derby festivities, it is certainly one of the most recognized.

In fact, Thunder Over Louisville is the largest annual pyrotechnic show in all of North America. Aside from this fact, it may be striking to some to know Thunder is actually a non-profit event that makes basically no return on the show.

Although the event is widely recognized for the broad display of fireworks, it should be known  the event works to benefit multiple other charitable and non-profit organizations around Louisville.

According to the Thunder Over Louisville Web site, Thunder is the No. 1 fund-raiser for the Louisville Science Center, the Kentucky Center for the Arts, Louisville Slugger Museum, Easter Seals, Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Louisville Ballet and the Belle of Louisville.

On the waterfront specifically, revenue generated from auctioned boat slips gross thousands per slip, as these spots are in high demand.

Also according to the Web site, the Belle of Louisville generates more than $35,000 toward its operating budget during the event, a vital chunk of change that sustains the local landmark throughout the year.

In addition to the charitable donations created, a recent study found that Thunder produced an estimated impact of $31 million for the local economy on both sides of the Ohio River.

This is a substantial economic boost for the city of Louisville and across the river in Southern Indiana. What is even more striking is the fact the $31 million is generated in a single day.

Multiple business fronts experience this economic boost ranging from locally owned businesses, extending down to the individual who may be looking for part-time employment.

The event needs workers for concessions, set up and tear down and other jobs like general cleanup. Clearly, the benefits of Thunder Over Louisville extend well beyond the sights of the air show and fireworks and work to ultimately advance interests of the community.

Above all, I would like to extend my gratitude to those of you who have attended Thunder in the past, those of you who will attend this year and in years to come.

Not only do you help stimulate my home city’s local businesses and economy as a whole, but you also help to fund so many of the non-profit organizations that come together and make Louisville the great city it is.