When I tell folks that I work at Conner Prairie, nine times out of 10 the first thing they say to me is, “I’ve been to the Symphony on the Prairie
Conner Prairie’s collaboration with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
(ISO) for the popular summer concert series has been a fixture in central Indiana since 1982. Sponsored by Marsh Supermarkets
for a number of years, over 100,000 people every year enjoy picnic dinners, beautiful music, fireworks (on a few special nights) and a great view of “the prairie” behind the symphony shell. These evenings are special times for families, friends and co-workers to relax and enjoy world-class music in a picturesque setting.
While the organization and event are driven by the ISO, Conner Prairie does play some key roles in making the concerts successful. Below are three important Conner Prairie contributions that I thought would be interesting to share.
-While the concerts are amazing experiences for those who come, they represent a unique challenge for our facilities staff in particular who devote many hours to keeping the grounds looking nice and to helping park cars and direct traffic. These essential jobs are often unnoticed (or worse, unappreciated) but the relative ease with which the upwards of 5,000 people on one night get in and out of a three-lane exit onto a two-lane road is a testament to the superb job the Conner Prairie facilities team does in managing the grounds for the event. In addition, the grass, restrooms and parking lot are immaculate due to the facilities staff diligence and attention to detail.
-Another department that plays a key role during Symphony on the Prairie is food service. They operate the Prairie Grill at the top of the hill, which serves a wide range of food and drink options, in addition to wine and beer, which was added to their selection this season. Patrons who either don’t have time to pack a picnic or need a dessert or more food can visit the Prairie Grill to enjoy the great selections there.
-If you happened to see a large, glowing beach ball in the sky on weekend evenings these past two months, it wasn’t a UFO, it was 1859 Balloon Voyage
! Our tethered helium balloon flies during Symphony on the Prairie (weather permitting) and has been a popular addition to the experience for Symphony goers. It is truly magical to fly in the balloon as the sun is setting or when it is dark and the city below is lit up with thousands of lights. The balloon pilot and crew have also been able to get guests excited about the rest of Conner Prairie’s offerings and have shared with guests the intriguing history of ballooning in the 1800s. I’ll never forget the applause and sheer joy that guests expressed after the fireworks flights during the Fourth of July symphonies earlier this year.
Please share your Symphony on the Prairie memories and don’t forget that the concert series lasts through the second weekend of September, so come on out and enjoy one and maybe even fly in the balloon! And I’m sure the folks with the traffic cones and brown shirts in the parking areas would appreciate a “thank you” for their efforts as well….
My name is Bernard “BJ” Sullivan and I am the chief pilot for Conner Prairie’s “1859 Balloon Voyage.”
I’ve been a part of Conner Prairie since March 2009 and needless to say, it’s been a pretty wild ride the past year and a half. As this is my first blog for Conner Prairie, I think it’d be appropriate for me to introduce myself, so all of Conner Prairie’s blog readers can get to know me a little bit better.
I’m originally from a small town in Upstate New York called Hudson Falls. In 2008, I graduated from the State University of New York College at Cortland, dual majoring in childhood education and special education. Once I had graduated I immediately started seeking teaching positions in Upstate New York with little luck finding any thing that seemed to fit my preferences for a full-time job. I knew something was bound to come, so long as I waited patiently.
My balloon experience goes back to when I was a young boy riding my bicycle around the countryside chasing hot air balloons. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to fly, or at least fly in a hot air balloon. When I was 14 years old I had the opportunity to go for my first flight and from there forward I was hooked. By the time I was 20 years old I had my first balloon and my F.A.A. certification to fly passengers.
In February 2009 I was interviewed at Conner Prairie for the chief pilot position for the 1859 Balloon Voyage. My balloon pilot experience and degrees in childhood education and special education were a good fit for the position. In a matter of two weeks I went from a fresh college graduate living in Upstate New York to a full-time tethered helium balloon pilot. It was certainly a change in pace but has been an ongoing adventure that has opened many doors along the way.
Stop by Conner Prairie’s 1859 Balloon Voyage and say hi to me and the rest of the balloon staff.