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“Lucky 13th”: Annual Pops at the Post all about good fortune

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By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — As if summoned, luck was on the side of this year’s Pops at the Post.

Maestro David Hagy said he’s been eyeing the weather report all week, keeping his fingers crossed.

“It was 60 percent chance of thunderstorms on Monday,” he said. “Then I looked yesterday and it was 0 percent chance.”

And when the first swell of music rolled out across the pavement, the day’s heat had begun to fade and skies were clear.

The stroke of good fortune is appropriate considering this year’s theme: Luck.

Saturday evening marked the 13th performance of the concert series, which began in 2005 — but bad luck associated with the number refused to stick.

“So far it’s been a very lucky 13th,” Hagy said.

Songs chosen for this year’s concert focus on both sides of the coin — good luck and bad — with pieces like “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover,” “I Want to be Happy” and the theme to Apollo 13. Former NASCAR driver and songwriter Kyle Petty also performed his songs “Hard Times” and “Movie Cowboys.”

But there was something else which set this year’s Pops apart: a tribute to the retiring Salisbury Symphony director.

“This is going to be in honor of Linda Jones,” Hagy said.

Jones said the honor had her in “total amazement” and left her speechless and humbled.

“I’m knocked out by that,” Jones said.

During one of the night’s crowning pieces, the “1812 Overture,” Jones rang the bell in the newly renovated bell tower. Hagy said that while the night, as a whole, was dedicated to Jones, he and the symphony dedicated this piece in particular to her. Jones said the song is her favorite.

“It ends with such jubilation, such celebration,” she said. “…When I hear it, it’s like life.”

Hundreds of people flocked to the Salisbury Post block of West Innes Street to hear the performance. Some were old fans, some new.

Glenn and Betty Walker are Pops at the Post veterans. They’ve been attending the free concert since its first year. They even stuck around through last year’s soggy performance.

“It rained us out, so we sat in the car and listened to it,” Glenn said.

When asked which year had been his favorite, Glenn laughed, and brushed aside the question.

“That’s like saying, ‘What’s your favorite trip?’” he said. “All of ‘em’s different.”

But this year, the tradition is a family affair — three generations of the Walker clan snagged a shady spot in the old F&M parking lot. The group was there before 4 p.m., cooling off with commemorative fans and talking leisurely.

It was the first Pops experience for daughter Julie Beaver, granddaughter Megan Rowland and great-grandson, Aiden.

“We were raised to enjoy music in this family,” Beaver said.

Most of the family is musical, the Walkers explained, and 9-year-old Aiden has a fondness for classical and instrumental music.

“You don’t need to have words with it,” Betty said he’s been known to say.

The family said they were looking forward to a good performance and a good evening, and the Walkers said they’ll keep coming back, year after year.

“As long as I’m breathing guess I’ll be here,” Glenn joked.

Streets were closed down for several blocks as vendors put up tents along South Main Street and trucks and cars pulled up and emptied chairs, tables and snacks for private tailgate parties in parking lots along Church and Fisher streets.

At 5 p.m., the event kicked off with performances by the Salisbury Swing Band. Misty Stein stopped her bike as she rode through the crowd and swayed to the music while kids Jesse and Melissa got ice pops from a vendor.

“We heard the fun,” Jesse said with a grin.

The family had been on a ride to Simply Good when they heard the music, Misty said.

“I thought it was a CD,” she said.

In the tailgating area, a group from First Baptist of Salisbury listened appreciatively to the swing music and chatted away. Members explained that they were with “Singled Out,” the church’s singles ministry for those 35 or older.

Normally, Pastor Rod Kerr said, the group goes on trips, does ministry or runs fundraisers.

“It’s a very active bunch of people,” he said.

But Pops at the Post is a yearly night out where the group relaxes and enjoys the evening.

“We think it’s a splendid idea, them doing this,” member Liz Hood said of the concert.

As the night wore on, the symphony wove a story of the ups and downs of life — from reaching for dreams to songs of love — and the audience followed the journey, spellbound.

Hagy, resplendent in a yellow conductor’s coat, said he couldn’t believe the luck of Pops at the Post, even after all these years.

“I can’t believe it’s still happening — and I am thrilled,” he said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.
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