Archive for Saturday, June 11, 2011

Symphony, scenery at Flint Hills a pleasing duet

June 11, 2011


Only 3 percent of what used to be a 170 million-acre tallgrass prairie remains today, much of it concentrated in the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas.

And that’s what organizers of the sixth-annual Symphony in the Flint Hills want people to understand and appreciate.

“Our biggest goal is to attract an attention to the Flint Hills,” said Brandon Cole, this year’s site manager. “One thing we’ve kind of discovered is that sometimes people here can take for granted what we’ve got, and some people outside the Flint Hills just haven’t had the exposure.”

More than 7,000 people attended this year’s Symphony in the Flint Hills, an all-day event held in a different part of the Flint Hills each year. Various activities take place during the day, and the Kansas City Symphony plays a concert in the evening.

The location changes to showcase different parts of the Flint Hills. This year’s event was held in the Fix Pasture near Volland, on land shared among three families.

“This is my first time being here,” said Lizzie Najim, a junior at Kansas University from Wichita. “I really like it so far. The weather’s beautiful. It’s a lot more than just a symphony.”

Activities during the day included horse-drawn covered wagon rides, nature walks, presentations on Kansas history, an instrument “petting zoo” and events in the neighboring towns of Alta Vista, Paxico and Alma.

Dedicated volunteers

Cole, a native of Olpe, is in his first year as site manager. He recently moved back to Kansas from Arizona.

“I considered Hillsboro, but I didn’t know if I could go from Phoenix to Strong City just cold turkey,” he said. “So I’m trying to go with Manhattan and maybe wean myself.”

Cole said he has a great support team for Symphony in the Flint Hills.

“We’ve got all these volunteers, people that just come out here with a sheer desire to just help,” he said. “It’s because they share the same passion for the Flint Hills as we do.”

Two such volunteers are Joanne Bergman and Mary Ellen Kriegh, sisters from Lawrence in their fourth year of volunteering at Symphony in the Flint Hills.

“It’s our ‘sis’ getaway,” Kriegh said with a laugh. “No husbands, no kids.”

Bergman runs an upholstery business in Lawrence.

“The symphony is fantastic,” she said. “I just love the Flint Hills. It’s a beautiful place.”

Kriegh said the awe of the Flint Hills is what’s brought her back for four years.

“Everyone’s happy. It’s a very happy, fun event,” she said. “We just feel real lucky we get to do this.”

Spotlight on Flint Hills

Larry Thierer, who owns one of the pieces of property on which the concert was held, spent most of Friday assisting with preparations for the event. He said he was amazed people come out for such an event.

“You want my honest opinion? I think it’s a lot of crazy idiots!” he said. “’Course, I’m outside almost all day, so no big deal being outside in the sunshine. I definitely can’t see driving and walking out half a mile into a pasture for it — that’s ridiculous as far as I’m concerned. But I guess it takes all kinds to make the world go ’round.”

Volunteers Gary and Joann Pottorff from Wichita have come to all six Symphony in the Flint Hills events. Gary is a retired veterinarian, and Joanne is a Kansas state representative for the 83rd district.

“I just enjoy the Flint Hills,” Gary said as he drove the truck that shuttled volunteers between the check-in tent and concert site. “I just like being out in the country.”

Betty Dunhaupt of Topeka volunteered at the first Symphony in the Flint Hills event in 2006. This is her first time back since then.

“I love the Flint Hills,” she said. “This is such an ideal place because people who’d never come to the Flint Hills come see it. We’ve got that Kansas pride.”

Cole said Symphony in the Flint Hills is trying to be more than just an annual event.

“Our goal is to really bring the spotlight to the Flint Hills,” Cole said, “and try to organize nonintrusive events where people can come in and enjoy them and develop an appreciation for them like we have, and then leave with a limited footprint.”


Dan Thalmann 6 years, 11 months ago

What a great arts event for Kansas, and it was even created and operated with private organization and sponsorship.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

Actually, it was sponsored by both the private and public sector, including the now defunct Kansas Arts Commission.

I guess now that you know that you went to a tainted event, you'll have to engage in some serious self-loathing until you purge yourself of the contamination.

Bob_Keeshan 6 years, 11 months ago

This event does not exist without the support it got in its first year from the Kansas Arts Commission and the Kansas Department of Commerce.

You are correct, here in 2011 it draws plenty of private support. Tells you something about how successful an investment in government programs like the Kansas Arts Commission and the Kansas Department of Commerce can be.

Bob_Keeshan 6 years, 11 months ago

To add to the government's leading the way on this event, the 2006 event was held on federal land and also featured a large sponsorship from the Department of Health and Environment.

Ken Lassman 6 years, 11 months ago

A gorgeous day, a gorgeous event. As one of many volunteers who worked his/her tail off, I found that it was well worth the effort, The site was a spectacular valley with lots of interesting horizons to look at in every direction and a pleasing mix of prairie and woodland. I must say that Brownback's little talk that he read paled in comparison to last year's governor Parkinson's spontaneous oration. But I think the comparison is probably a measure of who both men are.

Speaking of which, I thought Peter Coyote's rendition of Copeland's "Lincoln Portrait" was a moving one. I found myself wondering what the Koch brothers and Brownback thought of Lincoln's quote:

"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy."

Terry Sexton 6 years, 11 months ago

Mrs RC & I attended yesterday's symphony. It was very well organized & staffed with wonderful volunteers who made the event even more enjoyable.
I was hoping to catch up with Sammy B. in the mosh pit, but it didn't happen. The music plus the surroundings equaled extreme beauty.

GUMnNUTS 6 years, 11 months ago

This was my third time to attend the symphony in the flint hills and I encourage everyone to go at least once in their lifetime. The crowd is always a fun mix of locals and city folks. By using the picturesque backdrop of the Flint Hills and the beautiful sounds of the K.C. Symphony with Michael Stern conducting, this event makes for a incredible experience. Just plan on arriving early because parking can take some time, but their is plenty to do while you wait for the concert to start. The only disappointment of the night was having to listen to Gov. Brownback talk. I hope he realizes their would be no Symphony in the Flint Hills without the help of Missouri. Kansas has no symphony worth driving to or paying to see.

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 11 months ago

Michael Stern did not conduct. It was his assistant conductor.

olddognewtrix 6 years, 11 months ago

The Fix pasture was 1st owned byMicael Fix from Penns. who came to settle on the West branch of Mill Creek in what would become Wabaunsee County in 1856. He and his family befriended the local Kaw Indians and each November when they would go out to central Kansas to harvest their winter supply of Bison meat they would borrow Mr. Fix's Sharps rifle that had a compas in the stock.In returning the rifle they would drop off Bison loins for the Fix family. In 1858 an early blizzard overtook them as they were nearing the Fix cabin. It was in the dark of night and theydecided to enter the cabin quietly so as not to disturb the family and seek shelter for themselves.In the middle of the night Mrs. Fix got up to put another log on the fire and stepped on one of the Indians. She let out a scream and chaos was in the group until candles could be lit to light up the cabin.source --family history and the text of the story from the Wabaunsee Co History

verity 6 years, 11 months ago

Thanks for that lovely little story.

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 11 months ago

Yes, Kansas will need to import more and more of its art from Missouri given Brownback's actions.

Brownback had some nerve to show up at this concert. At least he got a cool reception, polite applause but not much of it.

It was awesome that one of the horses in the color guard backed up and knocked Brownback backwards. Saw it first hand. Does anyone know of a video of this?

mushfish 6 years, 11 months ago

What's Brownback doing taking in the arts? He hates the arts...I wish someone would take sam brownback!

nascar 6 years, 11 months ago

I'm so glad I missed Brownback's remarks. What a fraud!

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