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    On Saturday, April 21, the “opening ceremony” of the 57th Annual Derby Festival will see more than 500,000 spectators from Louisville and far beyond turn their eyes to the skies over the Ohio River for the largest recurring pyrotechnic display in the nation. Thunder over Louisville is one of the most beloved pastimes for native Louisvillians, but because of its enormous popularity, finding a place and means for experiencing the spectacle can be something of a headache.

    That’s where the Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium at the University of Louisville comes into play. It has graciously offered to open its doors to the public the night of Thunder, offering a brand new option for experiencing the show. Its “Thunder in the Dome Party” kicks off at 4 p.m. with a picnic dinner, activities for children and families, and a free planetarium show, but visitors can arrive as early as 1 p.m. to take advantage of the free parking in the Speed Art Museum garage, which is conveniently situated right next to a designated TARC Thunder Shuttle route!

    The shuttle runs directly to the waterfront from 7 to 9 p.m., where you will have a first-hand view of the fireworks spectacular, but the planetarium also gives you the option of staying and watching the exhibition, beginning around 9:30 p.m., right in their own 55-foot dome The enormous theater gives visitors the sense that they are not only sitting in the "front row" of Thunder along the banks of the Ohio, but allows them to view the works from angles that simply cannot be achieved anywhere else. Director Thomas Tretter calls it “the best of both worlds.”

    “It gives people the option of deciding at the last minute where they want to watch the show and removes worry over weather, parking, and traffic."

    Tickets are available at the Planetarium’s website and are $50 for visitors 13 and older, $20 for children ages 2 to 12, and free for children under 2 years of age. $125 tickets are available for groups consisting of two adults and two children. Discounts are also being offered for planetarium members: $20 will be taken off adult tickets, $10 off tickets for children, and $50 off group tickets. For more information about Thunder in the Dome, call Kim Whitehead at (502)-852-6665.

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    About Karen Ellestad

    When I was seven and my brother was eight, we both wrote to 'Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?' for a free t-shirt. Two weeks later his arrived in the mail, signed by Carmen Sandiego herself, accompanied by an autographed picture of the cast, an official membership to the 'Gumshoe Club,' and a Rockapella casette tape. I got a postcard.

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