African-American Think Tank upset over Thunder viewing changes

Rev. Gerome Sutton
Rev. Gerome Sutton

Posted by Charles Gazaway - email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A change to Thunder Over Louisville has a community group up in arms saying that the Derby Festival is segregating the community.

On Feb. 8, the Derby Festival announced that it will now cost you a Pegasus Pin to get into the Great Lawn at Waterfront Park to watch Thunder. Rev. Gerome Sutton with the African American Think Tank is arguing against the decision to force people to pay for access to the publicly owned area.

"We know times are tough, budgets are tight, but don't build it on the back of the poor," said Sutton.

The Derby Festival office responded with the following statement:

"Yes, we were contacted by Rev. Sutton and he alerted us of his concern regarding the Pegasus Pin admission to the North Great Lawn area of Waterfront Park for Thunder Over Louisville. 

Frankly, we were taken aback by his tone and approach. The fencing of the North Great Lawn and requiring Pegasus Pin admission was brought about by feedback we received immediately after last year's show. That feedback came from and through emails and calls to Louisville Metro Police, Metro Call and EMS officials, as well as letters written to and published by The Courier-Journal. These concerns were previously not on our radar. These changes are based on "security and civility." Spectators in that venue were witnessed being territorial and confrontational about protecting the space they had cordoned off with rope, tape and pennant lines. This created a tense atmosphere and we are concerned that it could get out of control if steps are not taken. 

This is not about the economics of the show, it's about maximizing the prime viewing areas for the public. The less amount of space that is cordoned off, the more people who can comfortably watch the show. There are hundreds of acres of free viewing space along the river. 

The fenced-off portion of Waterfront Park represents less than 10 percent of the public viewing area along the river on the Kentucky side. Any additional revenue generated by the pin admission will go right back into the infrastructure for the show. There are costs associated with the fencing off the lawn – the fencing itself, all-day security and adding amenities and bathroom facilities. 

The Derby Festival provides the only ticket in town – a Pegasus Pin – that can be used multiple times. For nearly 40 years, the community has embraced the Pegasus Pin as a sign of civic pride and a way to support the many exciting events provided by the non-profit Derby Festival. Each year, we depend on the cooperation of the entire community as we strive to provide safe, enjoyable and affordable entertainment for everyone in the Louisville metro area and our guests."

Pegasus Pins cost $4.00 if purchased in advance and $5.00 at the gate.

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