Thunder organizers watching bridge status closely

Wayne Hettinger
Wayne Hettinger

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - News that the Sherman Minton Bridge will not be closed for good is a little bit of relief, not only for those who travel over the bridge, but others as well. The trickle-down effect of the bridge shutdown is being felt seven months before Thunder Over Louisville.

This is peak planning time for the Derby Festival. At the top of their list right now is how to deal with the bridge shutdown. One thing they are not planning on is canceling the show. They say they plan on making it the best yet with or without the Sherman Minton Bridge.

It's the moment that kicks off the event of the year here in Kentuckiana. Thunder Over Louisville is a destination for hundreds of thousands. But how can the show go on with a bridge shutdown?

"That kind of got our attention that Friday when they announced that we were on the phone that night," said Wayne Hettinger, the producer of Thunder.

The result of those calls was there is no way they would cancel the show.

"We are always working on an A, B, and C plan," said Hettinger, "so we're not concerned about it."

The guys who put on Thunder are used to obstacles. Remember last year's flooding? This year they are looking at the possibility of not having access to the Clark Memorial Bridge as a side effect of the Sherman Minton shutdown.

"That means all of our fireworks are going to be on barges. Does that mean we have another barge?" Hettinger asked.

That could mean a show like you've never seen before.

"There are some effects we've been wanting to do, but it was like, 'no we'll use the effects on the bridge.' If we're not using the bridge it might be the year we add the affects to the barges," explained Hettinger.

Of course losing bridges may mean an even bigger traffic nightmare than the city's ever seen, but again they are preparing all the options.

"It may mean that the crowd is bigger on the Indiana side as it has been if they can't come over," said Aimee Boyd with the Derby Festival.

The show could also happen without any adjustments if the bridge gets fixed well before April. It's hard to know without having details on the bridge repair timeline.

Festival organizers just want to be ready for anything so their show can happen without a hitch. In terms of fireworks, the show has to be set 40 days out from the April 21 date. They say that is the day they will know for sure how different the show could look if the Sherman Minton is still under repair.

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