Symphony, fireworks bring crowd out in Kannapolis
By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS ó The Fourth of July weekend started off with a bang Thursday night, as Village Park filled to capacity and beyond for the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra’s annual patriotic concert.
“This is by far the biggest crowd we’ve ever had,” said Gary Mills, director of Kannapolis Parks and Recreation.
He estimated the free concert’s audience at 12,000.
Every available spot on the lawn was filled with blankets and chairs. People filled the embankments along Loop Road as far as safety would allow, with still more gathered along the streets around the park.
“This is great,” Mills said. “I think the word is out that it’s such a good show, and that the fireworks show is so good.”
Conducted by Albert George Schram, the symphony’s annual patriotic concert featured arrangements of favorite marches, Irish dance music and a tribute to Irving Berlin.
Schram brought his well known sense of humor to the show.
“You’re perfectly situated in the front, if you want to stand up and shake things,” he said at one point to people in the first few rows.
“I love the symphony,” JoAnn Lampe said. She drove from Concord to meet her daughters and family members there. “I love the way the kids get out and dance and wave their flags. It’s a great opportunity.”
She had another reason to celebrate with fireworks. “Today is my birthday!” she said.
The Charlotte Symphony’s yearly show in Kannapolis has been around long enough to become a tradition for some.
The lawn began to fill long before the 7 p.m. start time, when jazz duo the Hip Cats took the stage.
Larry Sprinkle of WCNC-TV was master of ceremonies. He joined Mayor Bob Misenheimer and Mills in paying tribute to veterans.
Schram and the symphony saluted the veterans in the audience in traditional fashion while the orchestra played the theme songs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
The whole park was full of all-American cheer.
Besides the hamburgers and concessions for sale, many brought fried chicken, burgers and all sorts of snacks.
Adeline Vilante of Charlotte came with her friends, four families in all.
They went all out, bringing a miniature buffet on two card tables, with a circle of blankets and folding chairs.
This weekend, Vilante said she will watch the Charlotte Symphony perform twice.
“We really enjoy the patriotic music,” Vilante said.
“And I enjoy the ice cream,” joked her son-in-law, Daryl Feimster.
Bryan, Ben and Margaret Smith, together with their French mastiff Rex, enjoyed the show from the top of a hill overlooking the lawn.
“It’s just a nice quiet evening in the park,” Bryan said.
The Smiths said they much preferred watching the symphony in Village Park as opposed to their other usual concert location, next to South Park Mall in Charlotte.
“It’s just a big parking lot. People try to outdo one another,” he said.
After “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” Sprinkle led the crowd in a countdown to fireworks.
The display clocked in at nearly 15 minutes. And although Kannapolis, like many communities, had to make some cutbacks this year due to budget constraints, Mills said he doubted anyone would notice.
The crowd in the park wasn’t alone in enjoying the show. Hundreds more walked or drove downtown in time for the display, with many parking at the North Carolina Research Campus to enjoy the starbursts over downtown.
With the festivities marking, for many, the start of a long Independence Day weekend the mayor said he hoped the idea of independence wouldn’t be lost on those who attended the show.
“It’s great that we have this,” Misenheimer said, speaking of the need to honor veterans. He is a veteran of the Korean War.
In his remarks, Sprinkle called on the audience to thank those who serve, especially the men and women currently overseas.
“Many of you have family there,” he said. “Many of you have friends there. Some of them have fallen. They will never be forgotten.”