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Pops at the Post: Tailgating at new level as symphony shines

By Kathy Chaffin
kchaffin@salisburypost.com
Reporters covering the same event two years in a row like to look for a new angle.
It didn’t take long to find one at the fifth annual Pops at the Post concert Saturday night. Not only was there a record crowd, a comfortable temperature and perfectly clear sky for the first night in a long while, it seems lots of people were talking about the two grills made from huge oil drums and wondering how they could be invited to that particular gathering.
A flatbed trailer offering room for a really big tailgate party and a great view for all the participants was also attracting attention along with the musical notes carved into the handle a watermelon basket at another gathering with an expansive food spread.
Here’s the scoop on the huge grills.
Joseph Cataldo of Spencer, owner of The Steel Onion catering service, decided to bring the grills and invited about 20 families to join him and his wife, Leslie, and their children. When asked about the gathering, he served up a delicious plate of grilled chicken and potatoes.
One of the people in the group, Steve Bird, was celebrating his 49th birthday. His wife, Allison, said his birthday cake, which would be served later, says he’s 21.
The Birds celebrated his 48th birthday at Pops at the Post last year. It’s a great time for a birthday party, he said, because his friends are already gathered for the concert.
The flatbed trailer was the site of an outing for members of the Brooklyn South Square Neighborhood Association. Dawn Purvis, a new addition to the neighborhood, suggested at their last gathering that they attend the concert as a group.
“None of them had ever been,” she said. “This is their first time.”
Jolinn Cash said Pops at the Post sounded like a great neighborhood activity.
Though she lived in Mooresville last year, Purvis said she attended the 2008 concert and had a great time. “I was really excited to be coming back this year.”
Greg Rapp said he got permission to bring his flatbed trailer. Any citations can be issued to Richard Brown (who was sitting next to him), he joked.
The neighbors had a large spread of food ó including Mediterranean salad, fruit salad, ham and cheese sandwiches and brownies ó on a table shaded by an umbrella.
Purvis said they took the trailer to the First Bank parking lot at 10 a.m. Saturday to claim a good spot, then went back home and prepared their food. “It’s fabulous,” she said of the view.
“It’s 3 feet higher than everybody else,” said 13-year-old Joseph Rapp.
Members of the neighborhood association said they plan to be back next year with Rapp’s flatbed trailer. “We just hope they don’t take our space,” Linn said.
Behind the Brooklyn South Square Neighborhood gathering was the carved watermelon basket on a large spread of food for six or seven families and several couples. Lisa Trainer said it took about an hour to carve the handle featuring a musical note design out of the watermelon rind, which she then filled with fruit for an impressive addition to the table.
A silver candelabrum with blue candles and a vase of hydrangea blooms added the finishing touches.
Rick and Susan Eldridge of Salisbury brought their Sebring convertible to the First Bank parking lot early Saturday to claim a spot on the same line as the flatbed trailer. John Gray, the city manager for Lexington, and his wife, Vicky, sat on the back for a great view of the Salisbury Symphony performing at the Salisbury Post’s loading dock.
Jamar Still, who is a participant in the Salisbury-Rowan Community Action Agency’s Investment in Youth Program, was the only one of 30 youths who showed up to help coordinator Almond Miller pass out fans featuring the Salisbury Symphony selections to the crowd. Still said he was enjoying volunteering because it gave him a chance to meet new people.
Still recently spoke during the agency’s PowerPoint presentation at a closed session of the N.C. Senate, Miller said.
Saturday was the first Pops at the Post concert for Greg Cooper of Gold Hill and his two daughters, 2-year-old Layla and 7-year-old Syann. His parents, Linda and Ernie, have attended before and told him about it.
Cooper said it was too early to tell if they were having a good time. “We just got here,” he explained. “Catch me later on that.”
Salisbury restaurant Castaways joined the long line of venders offering a wide variety of food and drinks.
Steve Fisher, F&M Bank’s senior vice president and general counsel, welcomed everyone to the 8 p.m. concert. “Sit back and enjoy one of God’s greatest gifts ó music,” he said.
F&M Bank, which provided small American flags to the crowd in observance of its 100th anniversary this year, is a presenting sponsor of Pops at the Post along with Gerry and Jim Hurley.
Master of Ceremonies Kent Bernhardt recognized F&M and the Hurleys; the Salisbury Post, which arranged for the first concert as part of its 100th celebration in 2005; and the platinum sponsors.
Maestro David Hagy of the Salisbury Symphony said, “Who knew when we celebrated 100 years at the Salisbury Post that this would become an annual event, such a celebration of community for all of us?”
Hagy said he was teaching in Venice last fall when the recession began to take a toll on the local and national economy back home. He said his mother kept saying, “You don’t know what’s going on here.”
With financial crises everywhere, he said, it’s even more important for people to have fun. Thus the reason for the name of the concert, “Fantasy and Finance.”
The symphony opened with the “Star-Spangled Banner,” after which two National Guard helicopters flew over as the crowd cheered and waved flags.
Christopher Crowell, systems manager for the Salisbury Post, said based upon his view from the roof of the three-story newspaper office that the fifth annual concert had a record turnout.
“It was spectacular,” he said of the crowd.
The sunset, which was in the opposite direction of the crowd, was very beautiful, Crowell said. Next year, he said Post staffers may try to video it so the crowd can enjoy it on the large projection screens, too.
Ronnie Tomlinson, who works part time for the Post, said he videotaped the concert for the Downtown Salisbury Inc. Web site.
The crowd looked like a “sea of people,” he said. “It was just awesome.”
It seems everyone who attended the fifth annual Pops at the Post concert agreed on one thing: It keeps getting better and better every year.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.

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