Pops at the Post draws biggest audience

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 4, 2012

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — With ideal weather and a waxing moon rising over the musicians, the eighth annual Pops at the Post drew what many believe was the largest crowd ever, approaching 4,000 people.
“It’s such a wonderful, wonderful event,” Clyde Miller of Spencer said Saturday night. “It is a true community gathering.”
The Salisbury Symphony performed for nearly two and a half hours on the Salisbury Post loading dock. The audience filled South Church Street and most of a city block.
Chris Watkins of Graham attended the concert, which started in 2005 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Salisbury Post, for the first time.
“Everyone is so nice,” he said. “People speaking and saying hello. It’s a small-town atmosphere and so relaxing.”
Watkins sat with Maj. Queen Williams, an instructor for the Salisbury High School ROTC program, which presented the colors and helped set up and tear down seating for the event, not to mention serving free Cheerwine throughout the concert.
The program featured music to mark anniversaries, including the 1962 integration of the downtown Capitol Theatre by Livingstone College students, Dr. Samuel Duncan and Wiley Lash, who would later become the city’s first black mayor.
Symphony Director David Hagy designed the program to reflect the community, with local performers and local themes. Teresa Moore-Mitchell sang the theme from “Titanic,” marking the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship.
The West Rowan High School chorus sang “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from the musical “Hairspray,” and the Salisbury Ecumenical Choir performed “Lean on Me” and “We Shall Overcome.”
A video tribute to the late Jim Hurley, former Salisbury Post publisher who died April 2, left many in tears. Hurley was a longtime supporter of Pops at the Post.
“He just looked forward to it all year,” wife Gerry Hurley said. “He felt it was bringing the community together. All of us were here.”
Gerry Hurley credited then-publisher Cathy Wilkerson for establishing the event, which was intended as a one-time concert. But the event drew such an overwhelming response, the Hurleys and other philanthropists worked with the Post’s next publisher, Lucy Talley, to make the $50,000 pops concert an annual tradition.
“The symphony is just super,” said Herman Peterson, the ROTC instructor at West Rowan High School, who came with his wife, grandchildren and other family members.
Hagy was his usual conversational self, sharing details about songs and composers with the audience.
“This is my favorite night of the year,” he said.
During a lighthearted moment, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to retiring Salisbury High School principal Dr. Windsor Eagle.
“Stars and Stripes Forever” had people on their feet, some waving small American flags, and “National Emblem March” and “America the Beautiful” proved popular encores.
Pops at the Post has become a celebration of food as well as music, and tailgaters set up elaborate banquets complete with tents, tablecloths and even floral arrangements.
Sales were brisk for eight vendors, including Ethos, a new downtown restaurant that ran out of chicken and waffles before the orchestra played the first note.
After intermission, Linda Jones, executive director for the symphony, expressed a sense of relief.
“This is the smoothest it has ever gone,” Jones said. “Everybody knew what to expect and rose to the occasion — the audience, the musicians and the crew.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.