The Flint Hills are alive with the sound of music

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A couple embraces while taking in the experience of listening to the Kansas City Symphony perform at the Symphony in the Flint Hills in Chase County on June 11, 2016. Five thousand tickets were sold for the 11th Annual Signature Event. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

If you take K-177 south from Manhattan for about 70 miles, you will eventually find yourself in Chase County – the heart of Kansas’ Flint Hills. It’s home to sprawling prairie landscapes, wide open skies and as of last Saturday, the 11th annual Symphony in the Flint Hills.

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A metal sign above the entrance to the main stage and seating invites patrons who came out to enjoy the Symphony in the Flint Hills in Chase County on June 11, 2016. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

This year’s concert, located at South Clements Pasture, was “a one-of-a-kind event in a one-of-a-kind setting,” according to the symphony’s board of directors chair Virginia Moxely. Thousands of patrons showed up for the Signature Event with the Kansas City Symphony, to see what would be conductor Aram Demirjian’s final performance with this orchestra.

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Conductor Aram Demirjian leads the Kansas City Symphonys performance at the Symphony in the Flint Hills. For four seasons Demirjian made Kansas City his home and made this his last performance. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)
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A bassist for the Kansas City Symphony begins to tune up his instrument with the rest of the orchestra before their performance close to sunset. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

Carrie Lindeman, the symphony’s public relations coordinator, said that about five thousand tickets were sold, but that the number of people in attendance was higher.

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The venue for the Symphony in the Flint Hills on June 11, 2016 sat in the middle of the South Clements Pasture in Chase County. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

“About 7,000 is our number,” Lindeman said.

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Around 5,000 people sit outside the main stage to enjoy the Kansas City Symphony at Symphony in the Flint Hills on June 11, 2016. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

When the gates opened at noon, people started flooding into the pasture’s makeshift parking lot to start their walk or ride up to the main site. There were wagon rides, barbecue from Cox Bros, guided prairie walks, a “petting zoo” of instruments to play, plenty of educational lectures and stargazing that lasted late into the night.

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Nathan Friedman, eight year old Kansas resident, plays for the first time a violin in the Instrument Petting Zoo on June 11, 2016. Flint Hills Music donated the tent and instruments including strings, brass and a variety of drums. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)
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Horse-drawn wagons roam across the site taking patrons for free rides in authentic vehicles. Daryl Summerfeld, from Tecumseh, owns Classic Reproduction Wagon Works and was one drivers along with his father and son-in-law on June 11, 2016. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)
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Once the sun started to set, people began to set up their folding chairs and tents by the main stage so they could enjoy the evening’s performance. While the Kansas City Symphony filled the thick summer air with music, cowboys began a cattle drive behind the venue. To end the night, the K-State Summer Choral Institute led the audience in a singalong to “Home on the Range.”

“I think it was a great way to tie in with a lot of generations here,” Lindeman said.

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The sun sets during the final songs played by the Kansas City Symphony during the 11th Annual Symphony in the Flint Hills on June 11, 2016. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

As the light faded, the activities continued into the night with cowboy poetry, stories and music in a story circle, a dance and stargazing under the endless Kansas sky.

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Patrons danced the night away after the concert on June 11, 2016 during the Symphony in the Flint Hills in Chase County. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)
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Stargazers after the concert got the chance to view planets and distance stars on June 11, 2016 during the Symphony in the Flint Hills. (Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

Next year, the event will be hosted in Geary County at the Deer Horn Ranch on June 10, 2017. More information is available at symphonyintheflinthills.org.



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Evert Nelson graduated in Journalism and Mass Communications in 2016. He worked as Photo Editor for the Summer 2016 Collegian and 2012 Royal Purple Yearbook. He also worked as staff photojournalist and reporter during his time as student.