With skies overcast, a light drizzle falling and the weather forecast threatening, the watchword at Union Station on Sunday was “the show must go on.”
For more than a decade, the focal point of Memorial Day weekend festivities in Kansas City has been the Celebration at the Station, an outdoor performance by the Kansas City Symphony at Union Station with a massive fireworks display over Liberty Memorial that attracts about 50,000 people.
And the show did go on Sunday evening, as the rain held off and an enthusiastic but smaller than normal crowd was able to take in the patriotic music, tributes to the troops and fireworks.
“We will do everything in our power to perform this concert,” Symphony executive director Frank Byrne vowed earlier in the day, as workmen stayed busy installing plastic sheeting on the back of the band shell to help keep the musicians dry.
“We’ve done this for 12 years without having to cancel,” Byrne said. “The men and women we are honoring didn’t stop serving when it was raining.”
By early afternoon, the people huddled under umbrellas outside Union Station for pre-show performances numbered only in the dozens.
Trumpeter Nick Kashka, 16, of Overland Park, had just finished a performance with the Youth Symphony of Kansas City Brass Ensemble. “There was a consistent breeze, so sheet music was blowing off the stands,” he said.
Kashka and his family planned to leave and come back later for the main event.
Jonna Hunter, her husband, Dale, and two other couples, all from Overland Park, had other ideas. They’re devoted jazz fans and had come to hear the Diverse Jazz Quartet and other local jazz groups regardless of the weather.
Sunday night’s concert crowd was considerably thinner than in a normal year, but as the 8 p.m. performance time approached, intrepid and devoted Symphony fans weren’t deterred. Some people even brought their own portable gazebos to provide a bit of shelter, said Symphony communications manager Beth Buchanan.
“We are full steam ahead,” she said. In the end, the nighttime weather was fine and the umbrellas went unneeded.
The weekend downpours helped Kansas City’s official rain gauge at Kansas City International Airport register nearly 8.5 inches of rain so far this month, more than twice the normal 4 inches for this time in May. Rainfall so far this year totals nearly 15 inches at KCI, compared to 12.66 inches at this time in an average year.
But some relief is in sight for Memorial Day Monday, with just a 20 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms. Temperatures will rise into the upper 70s and low 80s.
“We can begin to dry out a bit,” said Scott Blair, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Rain chances return Monday night into Tuesday and will persist through the week, with increasing chances Friday and into next weekend.