Symphony in the Flint Hills releases statement on cancellation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP/KWCH) Tuesday, June 19, 2019

Officials with the Symphony in the Flint Hills have released a statement regarding the cancellation of this year's event.

The statement details some of the damage and explains the "no refund" policy. The organization says it is not financially or logistically feasible since much of the money was already spent on the setup for the initial event.

The organization, however, will offer first access to next year's event to ticketholders from this year's event. Those tickets go on sale July 1.

They will also offer Flint Hills experiences throughout the year to help honor those tickets.

Read the full statement below:

Statement from Mike Stout, Chair, Symphony in the Flint Hills Board of Directors and Landowner of the 2019 Signature Event site, and
Christy Davis, Executive Director, Symphony in the Flint Hills

In the early morning hours of June 15th, we sustained severe damage to Irma's Pasture in Bazaar, Kansas, the site of our Signature Event. The severe weather event was later identified by the National Weather Service as a microburst, a column of air that can produce winds up to 100 miles per hour. The microburst flattened four major event tents, including ticketing, patron/sponsor, food, and art/retail. Three of these were large semi-permanent structures with wind ratings of 65 miles per hour, two of which had the capacity to hold more than 1000 people each.

The event was postponed Saturday morning and our audience was notified. As Saturday wore on, however, the extent of the damage came into focus. The tents - including two of them that measured approximately 100' X 200' - had not just blown over. They had been ripped to shreds. It was the worst the tent company had seen in twenty years - and another major storm was on the horizon. Once we understood that a Sunday event was not possible without jeopardizing guest safety and incurring damage to the prairie, we were forced to make the heartbreaking decision to cancel. During the night of June 16th, another storm produced enough rain on the already saturated ground of the site that event parking in a pasture would have been prohibited.

The decision to cancel was not taken lightly. It was particularly heartbreaking because of all the special programming we had planned for our Ad Astra theme and as a culmination of a three-year-long arts initiative called Jump!Star. This included education programming that was years in the making, the premier of music composed by Jherek Bischoff, a first-ever prairie performance of the Osage Ballet, and other artistic surprises. This is considered a "bucket list" event for many and the impact of canceling this has been upsetting for everyone, including our ticketholders, sponsors, vendors, site crews, staff, board, and 600+ volunteers who work year-round to make it happen.

Symphony in the Flint Hills has always had a "no refunds/no exchanges" policy for event tickets that is clearly stated on our website and online ticketing platform. The organization will not refund tickets based on that policy as the all revenue generated by ticket sales is used to pay for a portion of the costs associated with the event. Regarding charitable contribution information for the canceled tickets, we ask that you contact your personal tax accountant/advisor.

The majority of items at the event site is insured by the individual vendors involved with the event. The organization has liability insurance that covers the safety of the audience and our own personal property losses on-site. We are still assessing the damage to know the total financial impact of this loss.

Many have asked if the 2019 event could be rescheduled for another date. Unfortunately, this isn't logistically or financially feasible. There are too many already-booked schedules to coordinate with our vendors and the revenue has already been spent.

What Symphony in the Flint Hills will do:

*We will offer first exclusive access for 2019 ticket holders to purchase tickets for the 2020 Signature Event on June 13, 2020. Ticket sales will start July 1, 2019.

*We will offer Flint Hills experiences throughout the year to honor the 2019 ticket holders.

We are a year-round organization, and our mission is to heighten appreciation and knowledge of the Flint Hills tallgrass prairie. We do this by offering programs in addition to our Signature Event such as WoodFest, our family Fall event on Saturday, September 28th, and interactive art exhibits in our gallery.

We invite all of you to join us at these events to enjoy the experiences we provide in the Flint Hills.

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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Thousands of people weren't able to attend this year's annual Symphony in the Flint Hills performance because of Friday night's storms.

Organizers initially delayed Saturday's planned performance from Saturday to Sunday, but later decided that the storms did too much damage to the tents and other equipment.

Director of Engagement Gwen Obermeyer says several tents, chairs, and lots of water were damaged.

"We are all heartbroken over this. We do plan on putting together future experiences not only this signature event but other experiences here in the Flint Hills so that we can keep engaging with our folks to meet our mission," Obermeyer said.

She says company policy states refunds will not be given due to inclement weather. She says the proceeds are still going toward a good cause.

"The proceeds from the tickets do go towards our mission of increasing awareness and appreciation of the Flint Hills Tall Grass Prairie and we put those dollars to good use all year round. We have an education program and an art program," Obermeyer said.

Kris Larkin is the owner of Lark Inn Guest Houses and part owner of local restaurant Ad Astra. She has nine guest homes with people visiting from all over the country. She says the symphony didn't ruin her guests' weekend.

"They all stayed, I didn’t have anybody leave and they just enjoyed the Flint Hills," Larkin said.

She says people stayed for a bite to eat and visited other areas around the Flint Hills. She says some guests were disappointed but made the most of the circumstances.

"What was great about the symphony is anybody who had bought tickets, they all were emailed immediately," Larkin said. "A couple of them were texting me and said oh we’re still going to stay, we’re just having a good time anyways."

Obermeyer says they're working on a plan and an offer for ticket holders to try to make up for the cancelled concert.