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….
When I think of summer, I think of grilling out, boating on Morse Lake and concerts. I always anxiously await the Verizon Wireless summer concert line-up and carefully select shows at other venues around town to put on my “must see” list. Just last year, my first summer at Conner Prairie, I was introduced to Symphony on the Prairie. For those who aren’t familiar, Conner Prairie hosts the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra each summer for a series of concerts.
My favorite Symphony show quickly became the Stars and Stripes performance over the Fourth of July. This year, I brought a huge group of family, including aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, parents...you get the idea. My mom and I went to Conner Prairie’s Glorious Fourth celebration during the day, then made our way to the Symphony gates early to stake out our spot. At least we thought we were early. The show starts at 8 pm but by 3:30 pm people were already lining the gate waiting for it to open. When they finally did a sea of red, white and blue flooded the hill that overlooks the Symphony Bowl. Then, there are the decorations. I’m not talking about a flag here and there. I’m talking tablecloths, elaborate center pieces, and immaculate spreads of food. The best part about Symphony on the Prairie, besides the music, is the atmosphere. You can bring your own chairs or blankets, coolers, food, drinks and games to play while you wait. It’s just a great place to enjoy a beautiful summer night.
The Stars and Stripes Symphony gives me goose bumps every time. To hear the whole crowd singing the Star Spangled Banner or to watch war veterans stand and be honored with a personal handshake is a great patriotic feeling. The night ended with a bang, quite literally, as hundreds of fireworks lit up the July sky.