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‘It’s just exciting’: Meet the Ky. woman working the fireworks barge for Thunder

Thunder over Louisville is a glamorous event, but behind the scenes, it’s difficult, gritty, decidedly unglamorous work.
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 9:57 PM EDT
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BEDFORD, Ky. (WAVE) - Thunder Over Louisville is a glamorous event, but behind the scenes, it’s difficult, gritty, decidedly unglamorous work.

Just upriver, one woman is ready to board a boat to do that hard labor, and she feels lucky about it.

“Who else gets to do that?” Beth McBride, from Goshen, said.

She’s one woman working the boats and barges among a sea, or in this instance, river of men.

“I’ve been out here five years, and I have not seen another woman,” McBride said.

McBride is a crucial crew member on the “Saylor McBride,” one of four boats that will help precisely place the barges loaded down with fireworks for Thunder’s finale.

The barge business is one she married into. Chris McBride, her husband, is the captain and calls Beth his “first mate.”

Chris has been working boats and barges and even Thunder for decades. Five years ago, the family decided to start their own boat business.

Beth, who was a full-time realtor at the time, figured she could help out the business, thinking she could “clean the boat or do all the paperwork.”

“I didn’t know I was going to be tying knots and slinging wires,” Beth said with a laugh.

Yet now, that is exactly what she does, six days a week, 12-18 hours a day.

“I am still sore every morning when I wake up,” Beth said.

“She’s the great chameleon; she can adapt to any situation,” Chris said. “There’s no bounds to the physicality of it. She doesn’t cease to amaze me. She’s surprises me every day.”

Chris isn’t the only one on the water who is surprised by Beth’s presence or performance.

“All the guys are really respectful,” Beth said, “but it’s funny, because they’ll come up to me, and they’ll stop dead in their tracks because they’re not real sure how to react.”

After the tough days all year, Thunder is one day she really enjoys.

“You get to watch from the barge and see the big booms go off and feel it in your body,” Beth said. “It’s just exciting, so it’s fun to plan and do.”

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WAVE — Louisville and Southern Indiana's NBC affiliate. Follow us on Twitter & Instagram @wave3news.(WAVE)

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