Every year, the largest annual pyrotechnics display in North America — aka Thunder Over Louisville — booms over the city. But have you ever wondered who presses the initial ignite button to get the show going? Drumroll please…
This year, it’s local resident Lillie Ingram, a professional caregiver, who gets the epic title of “Thundernator,” as part of her winning the Kentucky Derby Festival + Kentucky Lottery’s Derby City Fanatic drawing.
Lillie was one of 10,000 entries into the Kentucky Lottery’s second-chance drawing, which had entrants submit their non-winning KENO or CASH POP lottery ticket worth $5 or more for a chance to become the Derby City Fanatic.
She’s missed out on Derby Festival activities for years due to the nature of her work caring for the well-being of others, including for her father, Lawrence Ingram. Though he sadly died a few weeks ago, her experience as Thundernator + Derby City Fanatic will represent her first outings since the loss of her father.
“I’ve wanted to go to things like Thunder for years, but I needed to take care of my father instead,” Lillie said in a news release. “Now I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning.”
In addition to pushing the button to start Thunder Over Louisville, she will get an exclusive tour of Churchill Downs, a seat on the Belle of Louisville for the Great Steamboat Race, tickets to Republic Bank BourbonVille at the Frazier History Museum, seats to Derby Festival Day at Thurby, a behind-the-scenes pie experience at Kern’s Kitchen + $500 in spending money.
The Kentucky Derby Festival has been choosing a Thundernator since 1994. As soon as the chosen one turns the key to launch the fireworks, Chip Polston with the Kentucky Lottery told us that Wayne Hettinger, the longtime producer of Thunder Over Louisville, takes the Thundernator out onto the balcony of the Command Center at The Galt House Hotel and says, “Look what you just did,” as the first fireworks streak across the sky.
Additional resources for Thunder Over Louisville