While everyone is freaking out over Thunder, let’s take a trip with Jim Welp:
During the Great Depression, Thunder fell on hard times. The city could not afford fireworks, and the military couldn’t spare enough fuel to send its hardware to Louisville. Nevertheless, Louisvillians showed their endearing trademark party grit when 110,000 revelers gathered on the waterfront to watch two ruffians beat up a hobo. Sadly, 19,234 spectators died in 1934 after consuming bathtub gin sold illegally from a fried dough stand.
The modern Thunder era arguably began in 1940 with the invention of the portable outhouse. An instant hit with Thundergoers, the “Sanitation House in Transit,” or “S.H.I.T.-house,” was especially popular with women, and served to convert Thunder from an event primarily attended by men and prostitutes into an attraction for the whole family. Even today, thousands of women eagerly line up at the popular S.H.I.T.-houses and spend much of their Thunder waiting their turn to go inside.
Further enhancements to Thunder came in the ’60s and ’70s with the surging popularity of rock ’n’ roll music and the fashion of wearing jean shorts. Thunder organizers placed loudspeakers around the waterfront, and swarms of music fans gathered to dance in their denim cutoffs as fireworks exploded overhead. Sadly, at Thunder 1978, a batch of bad Quaaludes sold at a Bunyan Onion stand killed 2,345 visitors. That same year, 7,483 Thundergoers were sickened by Mexican marijuana that had been clandestinely sprayed by the American government with the herbicide Paraquat.
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