LOUISVILLE, Ky. — This year's opening ceremonies of the Kentucky Derby Festival were big but not quite the biggest ever.

With the Louisville metro area having some of its best weather of the year and people looking for free entertainment during a national recession, hundreds of thousands turned out.

More than 700,000 people came out for Thunder Over Louisville on Saturday, said producer Wayne Hettinger, short of the estimated record crowd of 800,000 in 1997.

The high temperature was in the mid-70s on Saturday and the sky was clear or partly cloudy all day, which also helped keep the air show segment of the celebration on schedule.

"It went picture perfect," Hettinger said, except for one of four A-10 aircraft scheduled to perform in the show. The performance went on with three of the jets after one hit something in the air, likely a large bird, and was grounded, but did not affect the schedule.

Fans came out early Saturday and kept on coming right up to the fireworks show, scheduled to begin at 9:30 p.m. EDT. Hettinger thought at the time a new record would be set.

"We're looking over the crowd here and it continues to build for the fireworks," Hettinger said at about 8 p.m.

Sean Kuyper, 27, traveled about 180 miles from Lafayette, Ind., to arrive in Louisville at about 9:45 a.m and stake out a space at the edge of the Ohio River, right under where the fireworks would be going off. He was ready to spend the day, equipped with chairs, a grill, an umbrella, a table, cooler and storage bin.

Kuyper has been to nearly every Thunder Over Louisville since it began 20 years ago, he said.

"It's a great show," he said. "I'm getting to the point where I like both the fireworks and air show equally. Before it was just for the fireworks but now the air show is really good quality too."

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