Remembering the origins of the now-annual concert

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 27, 2013

It was a thrilling evening in June 2005, when we gathered for a symphony concert to celebrate the Post’s 100th anniversary. The night became yet more thrilling, when during the reception, Jim and Gerry Hurley each pledged $5,000 and Paul Fisher of F&M pledged an additional $10,000 for an encore performance.
Pops at the Post was born, and it was a magical night in Downtown Salisbury.
Since I was a writer/designer in the lifestyles department and had written extensively about the Salisbury Symphony, I volunteered to serve on the planning committee for Pops at the Post. The paper had folks from many departments of the committee. The symphony was also well represented, as was the City of Salisbury. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship with David Hagy, Linda Jones, Jean and Foster Owen then Mayor Susan Kluttz, and many others.
When the evening of the concert arrived that year and each year after, everything always went so smoothly. It all looked so effortless.
But I am here to tell you that it was not! Pops at the Post takes a lot of work from a lot of people. Each person who has served on the planning committee has brought various gifts to the table over the years. One of those many people was Ronnie Tomlinson. Ronnie worked in our circulation department. He became in charge of logistics, no easy task, I can assure you.
But organization was one of Ronnie’s gifts. Whether it was determining the layout of vendors, where parking would be, ordering chairs for our VIP guests or setting up the ever-important location and number of portable potties, Ronnie had it covered. I’m sure he got frustrated from time to time with such a herculean task. But he pulled it off each year. He was just one of those many behind-the-scenes people who got the job done with no fanfare.
(We left all the fanfare in the hands of Maestro Hagy.)
Pops doesn’t just happen every year. But what an event it’s turned into! When I spoke to Gerry Hurley about the concert’s beginnings earlier this month, I could hear the pride in her voice. She’s been a sponsor each year, and she’ll no doubt continue to support an event that’s so special to her. It’s special to a lot of folks, and I think that’s why the planning committee and so many other people continue to work to keep it going. It’s one of many annual events that makes our city such a neat place to live. It’s something to brag about. No matter what our differences — religious or political or otherwise — we can set them aside, at least for one magical night in June.
Last summer was our first concert without our beloved former Post publisher, Jim Hurley. We always kidded him that he was in charge of making sure we had wonderful weather for Pops, and I guess now he really is.
This summer will be the first concert without our friend Ronnie. We became good friends while we worked on Pops together, as did everyone on the committee. It was such a cordial and collegial group, working toward a common goal. I picked up the paper late one afternoon a few weeks ago, and was shocked to see that Ronnie had died on April 14. I found out that he’d been diagnosed with a rare cancer just weeks before. He left us way too soon. I noticed, too, that he died at the Kate B. Reynolds Hospice House in Winston-Salem, where Jimmy had spent his last days. You can always find connections to the Post.
Our two friends now rest from their labors. But both men, each in his own way, has left a legacy for the rest of us to enjoy for many years to come.
So I hope you’ll mark your calendars for Saturday, June 1. I can promise you it will once again be a magical night in Downtown Salisbury.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.