Hold on to your hats and family members
The windiest city in the world award goes to Wellington, New Zealand. For more than 170 days of the year, the wind blows through Wellington at speeds of 35 to 38 mph, according to a 2012 study done by travel website Liikkua.
Patrons, musicians, attendees and volunteers alike experienced these high wind speeds at this year’s Symphony in the Flint Hills concert. Ken Cook, the on-site support meteorologist, knew why the wind was so strong at Rosalia Ranch, host of this year’s event.
“There was a relatively large valley to the south where the wind was coming from,” Cook said. “Because the wind was moving upslope toward the venue, there was a so called channeling effect. That means the wind speed probably increased by a few miles per hour right at the top of the hill.”
The wind made for an interesting day on the prairie for everyone. It created an experience that was good, bad and ugly.
Many attendees were able to enjoy the almost 40 mph winds at this yearʼs event. Karl and Beth Zobrist of Kansas City, Mo., fourth-year patrons, loved the strong wind. “The wind experience is awesome,” Beth said. “You donʼt get this every year.” Bethʼs husband Karl took it as a learning opportunity.
“I was telling a friend of mine, this gives a new meaning to what the prairie schooner was,” Karl said. “I could never figure out, being a kid from Illinois, how youʼd get across the prairie in a covered wagon with a sail. I now understand it.”
Some attendees were not affected by it. Pat and Rhonda Johnston decided to lay out a blanket and play a game of cards.
“Itʼs nice weather,” Pat said. “Little 40 mph wind … this is nothing.”
After the symphony, more than 100 people went to the Story Circle to hear different musicians tell stories about the prairie and sing. One of the storytellers was Geff Dawson of Alma, Kan., and when the speakers and microphones accidentally went out, Dawson was able to joke about it.
“We must have run out of wind power,” Dawson said as the crowd laughed along.
The wind didn’t have the same effect on everyone though.
The wind was blowing dirt into peoples’ eyes making sunglasses a must. Mary Fieber and Terry Wise of Topeka, used to live in Chicago and have only been living in Kansas for a few years. The wind was still seen as a hassle for these “windy city” natives.
“This event is really cool,” Fieber said as she started to shake her head side to side. “We could do without the wind though.”
While Mary Fieber was upset about it, others were just trying to not get blown away. Louise Fager of Liberty, Kan., and her daughter Lia of Kansas City, decided to walk out to the edge of a hill where they could get a better look at a little pond on Rosalia Ranch. Lia had one arm draped around Louise and both of them had a hand on their hats. They had their minds on one thing as they walked back to their seats.
“Just trying to not get knocked down by the wind,” Louise said.
Unfortunately, when itʼs “the good, the bad and the ugly,” there has to be an ugly side.
The Symphony in the Flint Hillsʼ art gallery and auction shut down early due to the danger the high winds brought to the art tent. Although a crane had been placed in the center of the tent to stabilize the center pole, the decision was made to postpone the art auction, move the paintings to safekeeping and take down the art tent.
As a safety precaution, another smaller tent, the retail tent was also dismantled and the merchandise moved to a corner of the patron tent where volunteers continued to sell gift items.
Cathie Thompson, who had an acrylic painting accepted into the juried art exhibit and auction, was disappointed but glad the tents stayed up as long as they did and no one was injured.
“I remembered a previous year when we had to stand by our paintings in the tent and hold on to them so they wouldn’t blow over and be ruined,” Thompson said. “I knew the wind this year was much stronger than that year.”
“I think they made the right choice in closing down the show to make sure no one was hurt or the art damaged,” Thompson said.
Good news came out of the auction shutting down though. Louise Carlin, merchandise and art manager for Symphony in the Flint Hills, arranged an online auction for the artists.
“I think it says a lot about Louise and the others for making sure the artists have a show and a chance to sell their art,” Thompson said.
As he worked to take down the two smaller tents, Jose Vasquez, a longtime employee of All Seasons Event Rental — the company responsible for the tents — said the small tents were guaranteed to withstand only up to 40 mph winds while the large tents could withstand up to 60 mph. The larger tents stood up to the Kansas wind without a problem.
This year’s volunteer T-shirts may have said, “Land, Sky, People,” however, for the ninth annual concert the order of the day was more about earth, wind and some flexibility.
— By James Kellerman