Florence hits sour note with ‘gateway’ draw



Florence was the ?gateway city? for the fourth annual Symphony in the Flint Hills on Saturday, but a majority of ticket holders apparently didn?t know it.

Expecting up to 5,000 visitors, having easily less than 1,000 coming through Florence was a let down after the long hours of preparation.

?The event went smoothly,? said Scott Zogelman of Florence and member of the Prelude Steering Committee. ?But we were disappointed with the turnout and so were many of the out-of-town vendors.?

Now in its fourth season, Symphony in the Flint Hills organizers asked if the Florence community would be its gateway city.

For Council Grove and Cottonwood Falls, gateway cities in past years, the honor meant thousands of people would be directed to their towns prior to the performance by the Kansas City Orchestra.

Citing reasons why less than 20 percent of the expected 5,000 visitors made their way to Florence, Zogelman said he believed it was a lack of promoting their town and the routing of tour buses by Symphony organizers.

?Host cities prior to this year had tour buses going through their towns with shuttles available for the symphony location,? he said. ?This year the tour buses were routed to Cottonwood Falls and not Florence.?

Another problem was with advertising and how previous host cities were listed above Florence.

But Zogelman also talked about the good things that did happen.

?Our local merchants were happy with the attendance,? he said. ?The Chuck Wagon and Prairie Garden sold all their food.?

The community thought there was a good selection of merchants and retailers.

?Across the board,? he said, ?there was something for everyone.?

Florence residents also were impressed with how successful the day went in terms of visitor interest.

?People toured the Harvey House Museum to learn about our history and others looked at buildings with an interest in those for sale,? he said.

The weekend sparked a lot of interest in Florence and also in Marion County.

?We had people wanting to know about Marion Lake and others asking for brochures of places in the county.?

Another plus was the weather, he said. ?It was beautiful weather both days.?

Visitors also enjoyed arts and crafts booths, the covered wagon rides, kids? roping and musical groups.

At least 300 people watched a re-enactment of an old-fashioned gunfight, he said. Actors dressed in buckskin, Indian headdress or women wearing bright floral dresses from the old prairie days mingled with visitors on Main Street.

For Trayce Warner of Florence, who served on multiple committees, the best thing that came from her experience was seeing Florence pull together as a community and make it work.

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