This year, Symphony in the Flint Hills is offering well-heeled patrons an “Out of Africa” experience, minus the big-game animals (although mountain lion and bobcat sightings are possible): a luxury, weekend-long encampment in a remote prairie a few miles from this year’s June 11 concert site in Clements, Kan.
Up to 20 15-foot, air-conditioned Belgian bell tents will be erected in a sheltered location with 360-degree views of natural rock outcroppings, isolated, wind-battered osage orange trees, and a small pond that mirrors the electric blue, cloud-dotted sky.
The price tag? A cool $5,000 per couple for the all-inclusive Friday-to-Sunday “prairie encampment” bookending the Saturday concert.
Randy Wolf and John O’Brien of Kansas City will outfit the tents with queen-size beds, wood-and-leather camp chairs handmade by Wolf, and rustic furniture and ethnic rugs from O’Brien’s Hammer Out Design business in Independence.
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The pair — who have thrown luxury campouts (they hate the term “glamping”) for large groups of friends for years — are bringing in a covered chuck wagon for preparing sophisticated meals on site. Hors d’oeuvres, meals and cocktails will be served on real dishes and campfires will beckon guests to take in the vast starry sky at night.
Symphony in the Flint Hills executive director Christy Davis says the luxury package is designed for concertgoers who want to experience the stunning landscape of the annual Symphony performance in exclusive accommodations. Also, according to the website, $1,500 of the price will be a tax-deductible donation to “heighten appreciation for the tallgrass prairie.”
Lodging is an ongoing challenge for the event, which each year draws 7,000 people to remote areas where accommodation options are few.
“There is a great need for additional lodging, and we want to help meet that demand, and we also want to have an economic impact by helping the owners who offer lodging,” Davis said. “We know people who come out want to enjoy the landscape for a full weekend.”
Landowners Warren and Susie Harshman, who own rock quarry and cattle operations and a bed-and-breakfast at the historic Clover Cliff Ranch in Elmdale, welcomed the luxury camping project when approached by Davis and are letting the organization use the land for free.
“We love the idea because it is so unique,” Susie Harshman said. “We love stirring up the old hospitality. We love entertaining and giving people a chance to experience what we are lucky enough to experience every day.”
At a recent expedition to pick the site, after O’Brien erected a tent and some furniture he had brought to see how they looked in the landscape, Warren Harshman asked O’Brien, “What do you think?”
With a hand shading his eyes, looking at the long vistas where the only sign of human activity were the remains of a stacked stone fence, O’Brien replied, “It’s humbling out here. It’s very hard to find places in the world where you feel humbled.”
Tickets are on sale now for the luxury encampment, which includes VIP admission; general admission tickets go on sale Saturday.
Symphony in the Flint Hills 2016 tickets
June 11, South Clements Pasture, Clements, Kan.
General admission tickets, $90 ($50 for children 12 and younger), go on sale at 10 a.m. March 5 at 816-471-0400 and kcsymphony.org or in person at the Symphony box office, 1601 Broadway, or Dillard’s at Towne East Shopping Mall in Wichita.
Luxury encampment package, $5,000 per couple, are on sale now at 620-273-8955 and at shop.symphonyintheflinthills.org.