Music News & Reviews

Symphony in the Flint Hills concert returning to where it all began

Crews are preparing tents and walking paths for the 10th Symphony in the Flint Hills concert at the Tallgrass Prarie National Preserve north of Strong City.
Crews are preparing tents and walking paths for the 10th Symphony in the Flint Hills concert at the Tallgrass Prarie National Preserve north of Strong City. Courtesy of Amy DeVault

When Kansans think of the Flint Hills, they think of Chase County, said Christy Davis, director of the Symphony in the Flint Hills.

“It’s a beautiful site,” Davis said of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Chase County. “Our audience has really fond memories with that site.”

The Symphony in the Flint Hills changes location each summer, but this year’s event – a symphonic concert performed in front of an expected 7,500 attendees in the heart of the Flint Hills – will return to its debut location Saturday for its 10th anniversary.

In a partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Kansas, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve – located about 85 miles northeast of Wichita near Strong City – will host its second symphony since 2006.

“There’s something really spectacular when you get out and can see nothing but this open expanse around you,” said Laura Rose Clawson, a philanthropy officer with the Nature Conservancy. “The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a prize example.”

Symphony in the Flint Hills is a nonprofit organization that aims to heighten appreciation and knowledge of the tallgrass prairie by bringing people to the hills to experience it first-hand. Besides an evening concert, the day also features education programs, walking tours through the preserve, an instrument “petting zoo” and a silent prairie art and photography auction.

Tickets for the concert are sold out but may become available as ticket holders cancel their plans. Call the Symphony in the Flint Hills office at 620-273-8955 to be put on a call list if tickets become available.

Volunteers started prepping the location last week for the arrival of thousands of concertgoers; about 700 volunteers will be on site Saturday.

More than a dozen tents went up earlier this week, including the “saddle span” tent that holds the Kansas City Symphony, which is made up of nearly 100 musicians.

Grammy Award-winning artist Lyle Lovett, a supporter of the tallgrass prairie, will return Saturday to the Symphony in the Flint Hills for the second time; he performed at the fifth anniversary concert in 2010.

“It’s exciting to have someone who shares our mission participate with us,” Davis said.

About 60 bison had to be herded off the site earlier this month to make space for the symphony. The native beasts should now be spotted near the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve’s signature 1882 schoolhouse, Davis said.

Symphony organizers are also keeping an eye on the skies. There’s a chance of rain starting Friday, said Phil Warren, a meteorologist with AccuWeather. As of Wednesday afternoon, there was a 50 percent chance of rain throughout the day Saturday, so Warren thinks mud might create problems for parking and hikers.

Ticket holders will get a text message alert with weather updates, Davis said. To be added to the list, text “CTFME97259” to 25827.

This year’s theme is “grasslands of the world,” which will incorporate major grazing areas from five continents in the symphony’s education programs and music. The theme takes the organization’s mission to a national and international stage, Davis said.

“Part of that is encouraging people to recognize the significance of this grassland within the context of the grasslands of the world,” she said. “On an international scale, it’s an important place to protect and preserve.”

Reach Shelby Reynolds at 316-268-6514 or sreynolds@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @_shelbyreynolds.

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