The eighth annual Symphony in the Flint Hills brought the calm peace of the Plains and the harmonious sounds of the Kansas City Symphony to historic Fort Riley Saturday.
Gov. Sam Brownback, Symphony in the Flint Hills Board Chair Marty White and Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley, welcomed the crowd of more than 5,000.
With past events taking place in open pastures of the Flint Hills, having the concert at Fort Riley was a big change from previous years.
“It’s a very rocky terrain, but the grass and wildflowers and all the beauty of the pasture is not there,” White said. “But what is here is wonderful architecture, and you can still see the ridgeline across the Interstate, and that’s important to this area.” Symphony in the Flint Hills is an all-day, nonprofit event created eight years ago to increase knowledge and appreciation of the tallgrass prairie. The attendees traveled from far and wide to experience the heritage and culture of the Plains.
White has been involved with the Symphony in the Flint Hills since it began eight years ago. Her family hosted the event the third year on their land south of Council Grove.
Col. William J. Clark, garrison commander at Fort Riley, said he was proud to have the concert at Fort Riley this year to show that the soldiers stationed there are part of the community, as well.
“We’re very honored as the United States Army to be able to host an event like this, to be a part of the community and the Flint Hills region,” Clark said. “We’re hoping they walk away knowing that this is their Army, their installation, and that they’re welcome back here anytime they want.”
Vickie Hull, of Lawrence, had the opportunity to attend the event for the first time this year as a birthday gift from her husband, Bert.
“I never thought I’d be able to come to this; it was a huge surprise,” Hull said. “I love the Flint Hills. I’ve always loved the Flint Hills.”
The day’s activities allowed attendees to take in the culture of Fort Riley with visits to the First Territorial Capital, the Cavalry Museum and Custer’s House. For those looking for the feeling of previous years, there were also prairie walks, river walks and the popular instrument petting zoo.
Capt. Nic Brewer enjoyed his first time attending the event.
“It’s great. Not too hot out, clouds are out but we’re not getting rained on, and the music is great,” Brewer said.
Michael Roper and his wife, Antonia, of Kansas City, Mo., have been to the Symphony in the Flint Hills for the past seven years, missing the first concert because tickets sold out so quickly. The Ropers visited several historical sites around Fort Riley to take full advantage of the experience.
Michael initially had some reservations about the location of the event this year since the big attraction is the Flint Hills, but as a fan of history, those worries subsided.
“I think it was probably fitting one time to bring it onto Fort Riley,” he said, “because Fort Riley is a part of the Flint Hills.”