Symphony in the Flint Hills at Fort Riley, KS

For my MIL’s birthday we flew into town to spend about a week hanging out in the town where Sarah grew up, spending some time with family and friends.

For her birthday, MIL’s SIL got her six tickets to the Symphony in the Flint Hills — that meant we got to come along.

This year, the event was graciously hosted on the grounds of historic Fort Riley, a place of great significance to the region, the native populations of the 19th century Midwest USA, and the nation as a whole, due to the army’s establishment of its cavalry school and the legendary Buffalo Soldiers based there. Later it became the home of The Big Red One.

It took longer than I expected to arrive there from KC, but that was partly due to some traffic problems on the way. Fort Riley is near Junction City, Kansas, and we all had to show ID at the entrance gate. That was not such a big surprise, considering it is an active military base, but the guard merely glanced at the driver licenses (and passports) before handing them back to us and wishing us a pleasant day on post. This made me think that either they were looking for someone specifically by name, or else making snap judgements about the vehicle’s passengers based on their names and faces (and cars). Something bugs me about that, but I can’t put my finger on it exactly. I suppose that is exactly what happens at airports around the world thousands of time per day.

Anyway, we rolled in, parked, and applied sunscreen and bug spray liberally. We scouted out a row to set up our collapsible chairs. I was a bit surprised the plan was to set them up and walk away for most of the day. Wouldn’t they be at risk of being bogarted? “People just don’t do that here!” was the answer I got. And they didn’t — upon our return many hours later, before the concert finally started, our chairs and a knapsack of Sarah’s uncle’s were all waiting intact for us.

We spent the day wandering around the barracks and parade grounds and fields and museums on the post. We

  • watched equestrian performances,
  • attended lectures from professors and other subject-matter experts about the historical and cultural significance of the local native population
  • scarfed down beef brisket and barbecue baked beans in a giant chow hall tent
  • checked out the prairie art scene
  • listened to live folk music performed in costume — and even a tribute to German immigrants to the prairie

…and most of all crossed our fingers that the weather would hold out. In the end, it did — we never got more than about four drops of rain.

Here’s that German prairie immigrant tribute:

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Wrapping up the concert was the big finale, a sing-along to Home on the Range, the Kansas State Song:

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Here are some snapshots from throughout the day:

4 thoughts on “Symphony in the Flint Hills at Fort Riley, KS”

  1. CN Heidelberg

    Love your videos.

    1. cliff1976

      Thanks CN! For the HOTR video, I was experimenting with manual focus and very shallow depth-of-field on an old lens (possibly older than I am). I’m obviously not perfect at it yet, but I think there’s potential there.

  2. shoreacres

    Oh, my goodness. I am so envious. I love that part of the country – have spent as much time there as possible (not nearly enough) and intend to go back next fall. I’ve a whole series of posts just “waiting” – posts about Matfield Green, Council Grove, Cottonwood Falls, the Tallgrass Prairie, and so on.When I heard about this event, I wished I could go. Now, I’ve been able to enjoy it through your photos and vids. Thanks!(have you read William Least Heat-Moon’s marvelous “Prairy Erth”? It’s written about Chase County, Kansas – right in the heart of the Flint Hills.)

    1. cliff1976

      Good luck getting your own tickets in a future year, shoreacres — they sell out extremely quickly. If I remember correctly, my MIL’s SIL (erm, is that my AIL?) was thinking quickly when she bought as many tickets as they would allow her for this year’s event. And they sold out completely in just a few minutes.

      I have no idea what the cost of the tickets was, but I’m sure it was worth it — especially for someone like me, not from around those parts.

      I have not read the book you mention, but I am intrigued by the “deep map” approach to travel writing. Thanks for the tip!

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