Symphony in the Flint Hills takes on Kansas’ massive storm system, and the spirit lingers


Symphony in the Flint Hills encountered that reliable opponent of events in Kansas on Saturday night: severe weather.

Audiences and performers had gathered for the 17th annual celebration — eloquently penned by longtime emcee Dave Kendall last week in the Kansas Reflector — when the bad news arrived. Organizers were notified at 6.43pm that a massive thunderstorm had changed course and was targeting the outdoor event.

I doubt anyone would want to hear it, since the Kansas City Symphony generated much nicer sounds. But if extreme weather threatens, Kansans know that the weather can make all the difference.

“When we learned that the storm was potentially two hours away, we immediately implemented our emergency action plan and evacuated the site to put the safety of our guests first and foremost,” the coordinator said. of the site, Bill Hartnett, in a press release. He added, “When you’re in a wide open space like the prairie in Kansas, experts tell us the safest place in a storm is your car. Although the process of getting out of the parking lot was slow, everyone was in the safest place in the site.

Nearly 7,000 were evacuated from the site and sheltered in their cars before the storm arrived. Such are the risks of Kansas in late spring.

Symphony in the Flint Hills’ theme for the year—”The Weather in the Flint Hills”—seems to have anticipated this outcome. Either way, Kendall captured some stunning images and video of the day and its ending. He gave Kansas Reflector permission to share the video he worked on here.

Organizers are still monitoring the event site, according to the press release, although they believe the tents and poles suffered “significant damage”. Storm damage was also reported in Manhattan and Marysville that night.

Journalist AJ Dome was also at the scene, covering the event for his newspaper, the Council Grove Republican. He took photos as the storm blew in and the crowds thinned out.

“I received a text alert from K-State regarding a tornado warning affecting Manhattan, but ignored it to focus on the music,” he recounted in an email. “Another tornado warning arrived around 7:30 p.m., and a few minutes later the announcement was made that the concert was cancelled. The audience did not panic as they left; people were mostly in good spirits as they were heading back to their cars.” Some people even sang parts of ‘Home on the Range’ to continue a tradition started at the first Symphony event.”

He underlined all those who contributed to the smooth running of the evacuation: “Thank you to the meteorologists on site and to the emergency personnel who acted quickly to ensure the safety of people”.

Nobody wants to see a highly anticipated event cut short by the weather. But in the glorious Flint Hills, with views of plains, skies and clouds rolling with the force of ancient dark gods, attendees got their money’s worth on Saturday.

After all, there’s always next year.

About 7,000 Symphony in the Flint Hills attendees and volunteers evacuate Saturday night along a single gravel road on a Chase County pasture. (AJ Dome)

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