FindingHarmony in the Flint Hills

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A member of the event staff (wearing identifying vest) describes the plants and wildflowers that are native to the Flint Hills. In the background, a covered wagon filled with riders rolls along the trail near the top of the hill. Attenders of Symphony in the Flint Hills could choose from a variety of educational or entertaining presentations offered in an effort to raise awareness of Kansas?s natural treasure.

Could there be a more perfect ending to a June day in Kansas? The sun slipping slowly toward the horizon with increasingly fiery hues. Some 6,500 people, accompanied by the Kansas City Symphony, uniting voices for four stanzas ?Home on the Range? in a concert hall unmatched in the world for its expanse and majesty.

To say the second annual Symphony in the Flint Hills was an event to remember would hardly do it justice.

After the inaugural year in Chase County in 2006, tickets for Saturday?s gathering near tiny Eskridge in Wabaunsee County sold out in two hours. If word continues to spread, tickets for next year?s concert in Morris County may be gone in two minutes.

The 90-minute concert by the KC Symphony is the featured attraction, but the rolling, lush green Flint Hills is the star.

The five hours preceding the concert are devoted to discovering and understanding ?the genius of the tallgrass prairie, a particular assemblage of grass, soil, wind and horizon called the Flint Hills.? Meeting under open sky or beneath white tents, attenders learn about its plants and wildflowers, wildlife, the native peoples who first called it home and the rich history of ranching and politics brought by subsequent settlers.

The logistic accomplishment of accommodating, feeding and entertaining 6,500 people?a population equal in size to all of Wabaunsee County?is impressive as a small army of volunteers create a one-day encampment of wonder and discovery in the middle of immeasurable acres of grass-carpeted hills.

A wide mix Kansans and out-of-staters traversed the two-third-mile trail connecting the makeshift parking lot to the pavilion site, whether on foot or by riding on tractor-powered trams. For a few hours, affluent urbanites and plain-spoken ruralites?including eight or so identifiable Marion Countians?found a common bond that enriched them all.

On this day even the weather cooperated?blue skies, comforting breezes and moderate temperatures. The convergence of welcoming elements prompted Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, honorary chair of the event, to note at the start of the concert, ?God is smiling on the Flint Hills… and she always has.?

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