Symphony in the Flint Hills | KCUR

Symphony in the Flint Hills

Frank Morris / NPR and KCUR

Out on the vast Kansas Flint Hills, Christy Davis trudges through a muddy cow pasture on the site of a big concert that never happened.

“We took a hit with the weather. The one thing that we couldn't control,” says Davis, outgoing director of Symphony in the Flint Hills, an annual event drawing thousands to see live classical music on the open prairie.

Symphony in the Flint Hills

The Symphony in the Flint Hills on Saturday canceled its signature event — an outdoor performance by the Kansas City Symphony — for the first time in the organization's 14-year history. Early morning storms caused severe damage, including flattening four tents slated for ticketing, patrons, food and art.

Symphony in The Flint Hills

Leaders of Symphony in the Flint Hills, an organization whose main event is an annual outdoor concert by the Kansas City Symphony that draws as many as 7,000 people, canceled the event this weekend after storms damaged the site of the performance.

“As all of us know who live in the Midwest, the environment determines the terms of our culture, and boy did that happen today,” said Leslie VonHolten, executive director of the Symphony in the Flint Hills, in a short video posted to Facebook on Saturday.

Audio Postcard: Symphony In The Flint Hills

Jun 19, 2018

The 13th annual Symphony in the Flint Hills event took place on June 9 in Butler County. KMUW’s Ascha Lee files this Audio Postcard, featuring music from the Kansas City Symphony and voices from Gov. Jeff Colyer and special guest singer Aoife O’Donovan.


Hannah Copeland / KCUR

About 7,000 volunteers and patrons traveled to a pasture on Saturday, June 11, near Cottonwood Falls, Kansas to listen to the Kansas City Symphony perform at the 11th annual Symphony in the Flint Hills.

As the sun began to set Saturday evening the crowd's attention was diverted to the co-stars of the outdoor concert: cows. Volunteer ranchers on horseback herded brown, white and black cattle across the bright green grassy hill behind the Symphony stage.

Courtesy Wabaunsee County Historical Society

It's a familiar sight around rural Kansas: Some old, falling-down building, obviously abandoned long ago.

One of those buildings was in Volland, which can’t be even be considered a town — it's just four houses (three of which are empty), a boarded-up white building and an old brick store about an hour and a half west of Kansas City, just beyond the town of Alma (population 800).

Matt Kleinmann / Matt Kleinmann Photography

In years past, Bill and Julia McBride turned to their tallgrass prairie backyard in Matfield Green, Kan., to hear the Kansas City Symphony echoing across the Flint Hills.

But this year, the McBrides made a two-hour trek north to Fort Riley, the northeastern Kansas Army base where Civil War figure Maj. Gen. George Custer once lived. The base hosted this year’s Symphony in the Flint Hills, an annual performance – now in its eighth year – that brings one of the city’s premiere arts organizations to the middle of Kansas.