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Thousands expected in Florence for Prelude to Symphony

Security is tight as symphony prepares for concert near Florence

Staff writer

Security for Saturday evening’s Symphony in the Flint Hills already is tight.

Personnel from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have been on hand since Monday, guarding the property 24 hours a day. A meteorologist is on site to monitor weather, and organizers have been staying in a vacant school building in Florence for several weeks.

“I can’t even get to my own home without a pass,” said Sara Dawson, who lives with her husband Troy near the site, which is just across the Marion-Chase county line in the middle of a bluestem pasture east of Florence.

In addition to security, emergency services are available for workers and concertgoers. A triage tent and ambulance are on hand to treat any problems that may arise.

The concert site was selected carefully. No power lines or roads could be visible. The hill had to have the right slope, and the stage had to sit facing east. If the sky is clear, the concert will conclude as the audience views a Flint Hills sunset.

The property belongs to Doyle Creek Land and Cattle Company, owned by the family of Sara’s parents, Randy and Judy Mills.

The Mills have been busy for some time preparing for one of the biggest events to occur each year in Kansas.

At least 5,000 tickets have been sold. More than 600 volunteers from 95 Kansas communities and 11 other states will be on hand to assist. Coordinator Emily Hunter expects 7,500 people altogether, including Governor Mark Parkinson and other state dignitaries.

Troy has been preparing for the event for eight months. He cleared trees, rebuilt roads, and installed fences. In recent days, he mowed acres and acres of grass for the 49 tents that were erected at the concert site to provide food and water and to conduct educational events.

The largest tent will seat 800, according to Hunter. A special air-conditioned tent behind the stage will protect the orchestra’s instruments from heat and humidity before and after the concert.

Access to the site is from Cedar Point. The concert will be a mile from the parking area, at the end of a walking trail through wildflowers and native grasses. People can walk to the site or ride on flatbed trailers.

The ticket gate will open at 1 p.m. The concert will begin at 6:30 p.m. In case of bad weather, the concert will be Sunday.

Before the concert, Mark Funkhouser, the mayor of Kansas City, Mo., and 60 people accompanying him, including several guests from a sister city in Germany, will eat at the Doyle Creek Corral, a spacious private room at Doyle Creek Mercantile, which Judy and Sara operate. The room is available by reservation for parties, reunions, receptions, and other gatherings.

The mayor’s party learned about the facility online at doylecreek.com.

That’s not all Judy hopes the Kansas Citians discover.

“We hope the Symphony in the Flint Hills will bring people to Florence to see what a neat, little town we have, and to make them want to come back,” she said.

Last modified June 10, 2009

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