Welcome to the Kentucky Derby Festival – the two weeks out of the year in Louisville when horses and bourbon reign supreme – we’ve compiled the perfect guide to surviving the festival events, not least of all, Thunder. My name is Colleen and I’ll be your tour guide.
1. Go to a friend’s house in Old Louisville
Don’t have one? You have until Saturday to make one. The rooftop of an Old Louisville home is the place to be for all of us plebeians who can’t afford to spend Thunder swizzling martinis in a room at the Galt House.
2. Get There Early, Stay late
If you were unsuccessful with step #1 or just want go to the Waterfront to be in the heart of the action, I’m talking AM early. Sound unreasonable? You must not be from around here. Strap as much booze as you can conceal to your person and plan to make a day of it.
3. Park Far Away from the Action
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that parking closer to the river = saving time. This is the Kentucky Derby Festival, for goodness’ sake – everything you thought you knew about law, logic and reason – forget it. You’re better off parking closer to the highway than the Waterfront and walking to and from the Waterfront. When the crowd breaks when the show is over, you can hop into your car and hop on the highway, leaving all of those chuckleheads who thought that conventional rules of logic would apply to Thunder Over Louisville in your dust.
Seriously, Don’t Park in a Parking Garage
You’ll be stuck in gridlock come judgment day. Seriously, park on the street. Seriously. Guys, seriously.
4. Stake Out a Place by the River Early in the Day
Sounds like a bluegrass song, doesn’t it? No? Alright. Blankets, tarps, folding chairs, wagons. If you’re a Louisville native, you know the drill. If you don’t know, then now you know: in the wilderness of the Louisville Waterfront, marking your territory with a blanket or tarp is comparable to a legally-binding contract and an honor system that is generally recognized and respected.
Remember all of that booze you strapped to your person earlier? You’re going to want to make sure you’re slathered in the highest SPF available under the sun once you take your involuntary, alcohol-induced midday nap on your tarp that you have by now established as your domain. This should all take place by noon or 1 PM at the latest. If you’re running behind schedule, don’t expect to have front row seats to the red, white and blue fireworks choreographed for when Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” comes booming across the Ohio River like George Washington barrelling down your ear canals to fight the Redcoats.
6. Comfortable Shoes
Don’t plan on wearing “cute” shoes unless you’re okay with leaving with them covered in mud and/or your boyfriend has agreed to carry you on his back by the end of the day.
7. Plan Your Trips to the Port-O-Potty Strategically.
Don’t expect it to take any less than 15 minutes to get through any given Port-O-Potty line. No, you can’t slip off behind a tree or duck into an alley or something when nature calls. There is no privacy at Thunder. There are eyes everywhere. Eyes that probably went to high school with you.
8. Bring a Jacket for When the Sun Goes Down
By some grace of God the weather is expected to be pleasant this year. Regardless, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Nothing kills your buzz like shivering in the wind blowing off the river, and if you allow that to happen, what was the point of duct-taping all of those flasks to your body earlier?
9. Bring Extra Cash for Food at the Chow Wagon
Yes, it’s expensive, but once you come eye-to-eye with a funnel cake, you’re not going to be able to deny it. Funnel cake, I wish I could quit you.
10. Be Cool
We’re all just here to have a good time and engage in the inexplicable tradition of enjoying some All-American, heart-shaped fireworks exploding to the smooth styling of Linda Rondstat and James Ingram serenading every man, woman and child on the Waterfront with “Somewhere Out There” just like we have been since 1990. Don’t be “that guy.” If you think you want to come Thunder to hassle people, how ‘bout you don’t and just say you did?