Florence ready to assume ?gateway? role


When a town of 500 people agrees to host an event that will generate 10 times as many visitors, a lot of work needs to be done.


Concert goers enjoyed the Kansas City Symphony in Waubaunsee County in 2007. This year the event comes to Marion County with gateway activities in Florence. The concert will be just over the border in Chase County.

But for residents in Florence, the decision to be this year?s gateway city and prelude to the Symphony in the Flint Hills Friday and Saturday, June 13-14, has been fun and challenging, according to organizers.

Prelude activities will include food vendors, arts and crafts booths, covered wagon rides, kids? roping, checkers, marbles and other attractions.

Musical entertainment Friday will include Jeff Davidson from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.; Tall Grass Express from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Brothers and Sisters from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Greenhorns from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Other attractions are Moun?tain Men Encampment and more music Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. with Bob and the Boys, followed by Elexa Dawson and Jason Callahan.

?Anyone who hasn?t been to a Mountain Men Encampment will experience something quite special,? said Teresa Huffman, executive director of Marion County Economic Development.

Scott Zogelman, committee member, said, ?It?s like walking into a time warp.?

Many will be dressed in buckskin or Indian headdress, bright floral dresses worn in the old prairie days and the camps have no modern-day tents.

?The encampment has tepees or canvas tents, cookouts over an open pit, black-powder shooting and people from all walks of life,? Huffman said.

A bus shuttle to the encampment will be available at Third and Main streets in Florence.

Arts and crafts vendors at the prelude will bring pottery, concrete and mosaic art, handcrafted jewelry, wood carvings, candles, pencil drawings, historic novels and more.

?We are anticipating 5,000 people, not only from Marion County, but from other surrounding areas as well,? Huffman said. ?Two busloads of people from in and around Kansas City, who are guests of Mayor Mark Funkhouser, will be eating at the Corral behind the Mercantile.?

Another plus at this year?s prelude is the food vendors and how they will accommodate the large numbers expected.

At least 13 food vendors will provide spectators with a range of culinary delights. Funnel cakes, sweet chipotle barbecue, snocones and other treats will be waiting, she said.

Maps will be available to show visitors where to find vendors, event locations and parking.

?We have not done anything quite like this before (in Florence),? she said, ?but our community pulled together and made this work.?

Since last fall, volunteers from around the county have either provided information or served on one of the seven committees to make the prelude as legendary as the symphony itself.

Each committee looked at what it would take to make visitors, either attending the symphony or those just enjoying an outing, have the best day possible.

Organizers are also encouraging visitors to visit the Harvey House Museum, Doyle Creek Corral and Mercantile or talk with many of those familiar with its history.

?The Symphony in the Flint Hills is such a great musical experience and the prelude in Florence is this year?s gateway to it,? she said.

Many things needed to be considered to pull this off, Zogelman said.

?Parking, shuttle buses, portable toilets, information booths, food vendors, professional sound and stage crews, and so much more,? he said.

Trayce Warner of Florence, who serves on multiple committees, said she hopes this is something the city can continue to grow on.

As for this year?s event, Warner said, the most enjoyable part for her was the planning.

?The prelude brought this county together to work on a community project,? she said. ?The commissioners (Bob Hein, Randy Dallke, Dan Holub) were generous, we had help from people in Goessel, Pilsen?everywhere in Marion County.?

Warner added it was 20 percent Florence and the other 80 percent of making it happen came from Hillsboro, Marion and the rural areas and towns of Marion County.

?The Symphony in the Flint Hills prelude is truly a multi-community event,? she said.

For more information about the prelude events, call 620-382-8830 or go online: www.marioncountyks.org.

The fourth annual concert is Saturday, June 13, on the Doyle Creek Land & Cattle Co. located between Florence and Strong City, south of Cedar Point.

The site is in Chase County on privately owned ranch land about three miles southeast of Cedar Point.

The Flint Hills symphony experience started June 12, 1994, when Matfield Green rancher Jane Koger celebrated her 40th birthday by inviting the people of Chase County to a ?Sym?phony on the Prairie.?

More than 10 years later, Symphony in the Flint Hills came to be and is now in its fourth year.

All 5,000 tickets were sold for this year?s concert, but the prelude in Florence can still provide visitors a taste of the Flint Hills.

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