Lack of funds mean flag may not fly - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Lack of funds mean flag may not fly

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Wayne Hettinger Wayne Hettinger

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – It's the nation's largest fireworks show and the most spectacular free aerial show in the country.

Each year one of the most popular parts of Thunder Over Louisville is the giant American flag that flies before the show. But this year it looks like Old Glory won't be flying over the Ohio River before the fireworks.

"It's very dear to my heart," Wayne Hettinger, the creator of Thunder Over Louisville, said of flying the flag.

As a Vietnam Era Veteran Hettinger has always made sure patriotism was a part of the show. 

In 1976 Hettinger wrote a poem with his friend John McGee. Those words have been the preamble to the biggest fireworks show in North America and the background for the nation's largest flag illuminated by spotlights over the Ohio River.

"It's a big flag, 40 by 60," Hettinger said. "Gives me goose bumps. I still enjoy it."

Flying the flag took a lot of trial and error. "That helicopter has to be flying at a certain speed. There has to be 165 pounds hanging on the wire the flags attached to," he said.

It also takes money. Even though Thunder has faced budget issues Hettinger is determined to keep the flag in the fireworks show.

Hettinger and his team decided due to funding they will keep the flag, but it will be different. "They're going to be towed in with banner towed airplanes rather than suspended under helicopters," he explained.

For him seeing the flag, "It's like let's just take a minute and reflect on how thankful we should all be that we live in this country. And give thanks to all the people who have made it possible that we have our freedom in this country."

Although funds are the problem, Hettinger said there is a solution.  "If everybody was buying a (Pegasus) pin there would be no problem," he said. "You take 800,000 people buying a pin. We have no financial problems."

Thunder Over Louisville will take place Saturday, April 12 and will be aired on WAVE 3 News.

For more information about the event, click here.

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