Bazaar Over the past week, a city of tents sprang up like mushrooms in a pasture just southwest of Cottonwood Falls. On Saturday, more than 6,000 people gathered on the prairie to celebrate the beauty and culture of the Flint Hills with tours, educational programs, art and music.
They came from all over Kansas, and all over the world, to enjoy a unique combination of the Flint Hills, the Kansas City Symphony and Lyle Lovett.
Retta Kramer, of Milford, and her family attended the event last year.
“It’s amazing, the pageantry they put with it just gripped you,” she said. “This is a beautiful setting, and in the open air. We’ve decided it’s going to be a family tradition.”
Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson gave a rousing welcome to “a pure Kansas night.”
Symphony in the Flint Hills Inc. was formed in 2006 to bring music and prairie lovers together and to heighten awareness and appreciation of the tallgrass prairie.
The original tallgrass prairie of the Great Plains stretched from Canada to Texas. Three hundred million years in the making, only 3 percent of the ecosystem remains.
Experts on prairie ecosystems, wildflowers, grasses, birds and insects presented educational programs throughout the afternoon. Cowboys on horseback demonstrated their skills in riding and roping, and visitors to the event jostled through the prairie in horse-drawn wagons.
“The best part is watching people react to the cowboys and the ranching heritage,” said Mike Beam, chairman of the nonprofit’s board of directors.
The Kansas City Symphony, conducted by Steven Jarvi, performed a selection of tunes with a pastoral theme, with names like “Cowboy Rhapsody” and “Buckaroo Holiday” and accompanied Lyle Lovett on “Which Way does that Old Pony Run.”
Jim Ochs, of Gridley, said four years ago he bought tickets to the Symphony in the Flint Hills for his five siblings and their children, invited them to a reunion, but didn’t tell them where they were going. They piled onto a school bus and as they approached the symphony site, he told them they were going to be enjoying some classical music on the prairie.
“We all need a little culture,” he told them.
Some of the family groaned and complained that they didn’t like classical music or being out in the tall grass and hot sun.
“After the finale that evening, my niece came up to me with tears rolling down her face and said, ‘Thank you, that was so lovely,’” Ochs said.
Since that first event, Ochs and his wife Joyce have returned each year as volunteers.