Winds howled over the tallgrass prairie Saturday at the site of this year’s Symphony in the Flint Hills, tossing hats and paper plates across the plains.
“Don’t blow away” was the day’s most common phrase.
Winds — with gusts pushing 40 mph — evacuated two tents Saturday afternoon at Rosalia Ranch, the site of this year’s Symphony in the Flint Hills.
“Lets us know we’re in Kansas, right?” said Byron Ediger, of Newton.
Symphony in the Flint Hills, a nonprofit organization out of Cottonwood Falls, organizes a symphony concert each summer to heighten appreciation and knowledge of the tallgrass prairie by bringing people to the hills to experience it first-hand.
More than 7,000 people arrived Saturday afternoon at the ranch-turned-concert-venue to hear the sounds of the Kansas City Symphony.
“It was nice being able to sleep in a couple of hours,” said Brenda Knight, a volunteer from Wichita.
Most Wichita attendees said they were happy the site was in Butler County. In the nine years of the event, this is the closest it has ever been to Wichita.
“We would have went anyway, no matter where it was,” said Teresa Richardson of Wichita. “But it definitely makes things a little easier.”
Governor Sam Brownback welcomed concertgoers in the evening to Rosalia Ranch.
“I love this event because it feeds and fills my soul like nothing else,” Brownback said to the crowd.
The symphony’s selections featured pieces that highlight the land, sky and their relationships with people. At intermission, cattle were driven over the hills by riders on horses.
Some audience members worried the wind would make it difficult to hear the symphony because the stage – about 90 instruments strong – faced against the gusts. Carrie Riggs of Cottonwood Falls said she was concerned people might not show up because of the winds.
Kansas City Symphony conductor Aram Demirjian said the wind would not be a factor, even though “all our music is written down and paper blows away.”
“It’s just something musicians adjust to,” he said.
This is Demirjian’s second year as conductor. Last summer, he conducted the symphony at Fort Riley for the eighth Symphony in the Flint Hills, so the tallgrass prairie is a new setting for Demirjian.
“I can’t think of a more beautiful setting,” he said. “Inside a concert hall you don’t have the vista of the prairie.”
Each year, tickets for the concert sell out, usually within days of becoming available. Saturday’s general admission tickets didn’t sell out until Friday night, executive director Christy Davis said.
Most of the symphony’s attendees and patrons are from the Kansas City area, Davis said, which may have contributed to the slower sell-out.
Cindy Renard, a symphony attendee from Wichita, would be happy with a location anywhere in the Flint Hills.”
“My first experience with the Flint Hills, as a child, was one of those drives on the back country roads right near here,” Renard said. “We came over the ridge and the whole world opened up.”
It seems that no matter the location, though, volunteers, patrons and other concertgoers return to the event year after year. Wanda Headrick of Atlanta, Kan., has been volunteering for Symphony in the Flint Hills for eight years – every year except the first.
“I just think it’s a beautiful part of the world that has gotten the short end of the stick,” Headrick said.
“Growing up in Kansas, for some reason, you were always made to feel like there’s nothing to do in Kansas.
“I love to share my love for the Flint Hills.”
To reach Shelby Reynolds, call 316-268-6419 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.