KANNAPOLIS — The annual Charlotte Symphony Orchestra concert in Village Park drew close to 15,000 people to downtown Kannapolis last year.
Even though rain and the threat of storms cut the crowd to about a fifth of that number for this year’s event, those who braved the weather were rewarded.
Kannapolis Parks and Recreation Director Gary Mills estimated the turnout at about 3,000.
With rock singer/songwriter Jasmine Cain as the opening act, and fireworks to end the night with a bang, the Charlotte Symphony’s concert still had people on their feet and singing along.
They improvised, spreading tarps and plastic ground cloths under their picnic blankets.
When a shower moved over the lawn, umbrellas sprung up by the hundreds, like mushrooms.
Not everyone could take the rain, which fell heavily for a good part of an hour at the beginning of the evening.
Christine Ball, of Salisbury, was one of the adults who brought a group of girls from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
They started packing up during the opening act, about 30 minutes before the Symphony started playing.
“It’s just a little too wet,” Ball said.
“This is a great program. Unfortunately, little kids can’t take the rain,” Dieter Stoelting said, as he packed up the chairs and the makeshift tent the girls had been using.
A few moments later, as the downpour continued, Myka Perusek and her friends headed for the parking lot, wringing water out of their picnic blanket as they did.
“Every time we think it’s going to let up, it starts again!” said Perusek, who lives in Kannapolis.
Fifteen or so people hid out in the pedestrian tunnel that links Village Park to the N.C. Research Campus, waiting for the rain to subside.
But others stuck it out on the lawn, including Elizabeth Albright, of Concord.
Her parents were there with her, as well as her sister’s family who were visiting from Mobile, Alabama.
“In years past, it’s been really good, and we’d already promised the kids we’d come. And it had stopped raining on the way over here,” Albright said.
She held an umbrella, as her niece, Ella Fletcher, 8, clung close to her.
Her nephew, Luke, 5, sat nearby.
And her sister, Heather Fletcher, sat with a kid’s lawn chair perched on her head to keep the rain away, until her father passed her an umbrella.
“Typical Americana, a celebration of tradition,” said Mike Fletcher, Heather’s husband. “Even when it’s wet.”
As the orchestra tuned up, organizers and musicians were a little nervous.
Asked whether she’d ever played in those conditions, musician Rebekah Newman, of Charlotte, smiled.
“Not really, no,” she said, as she carried her viola in its case. “It’s going to be nerve-wracking for the stringed instruments. They aren’t supposed to get wet.”
But the concert went on without any major problems, save for a slight delay while some of the instruments were moved away from the open sides of the stage.
Conductor Albert-George Schram gave a warm welcome to the audience, just about the time the last rain shower moved out of the area.
“Look at you, Kannapolis!” Schram said, going on to praise the audience’s love of music and their tenacity.
The show featured a salute to veterans from all branches of service, as well as favorite patriotic music.
Pyrotechnic “cannon fire” graced Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” surprising more than a few of the audience members with real fire and smoke.
Fireworks launched from the N.C. Research Campus burst over downtown to end the night, as the last traces of sunset showed through the clouds to the west.
Despite the waterlogged lawn and possibility of storms, organizers said the show was a success.
“We’re not going to dampen our enthusiasm,” said Kannapolis Mayor Bob Misenheimer.
Becky Tolle, Kannapolis’ recreation and special events coordinator, said everything came together as expected.
“Kids playing, symphony tuning, rain stopping,” Tolle said just before the concert opened.
Organizers said that only one of Kannapolis Parks and Recreation’s concerts had ever been fully rained out, although some had lower turnout because of rain before or during the event.
Mills said he was glad that the show was able to go on.
“I love this concert most, out of all the ones we do,” Mills said. “I’m thrilled with the turnout, I’m thrilled with the symphony.”
From their cheers and applause, it was obvious that those who did brave the rain were serious about celebrating America during the week of Independence Day.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.