June 14, 2012 10:04:32 AM
Columbus is fortunate to have many festivals, events and celebrations sprinkled liberally throughout the calendar year. Each plays a distinct role in helping Columbus develop and enhance a sense of community. We are at our best when we are together on such occasions, when the focus is not on the many things that often divide us, but on the interests and values that we share.
While we salute these annual events, we commend to your attention an event that stands apart in many respects.
On June 23, the American Wind Symphony Orchestra will kick off its 55th season with a concert at the East Bank of the John C. Stennis Lock and Dam. The "floating symphony'' is the brainchild of Robert Austin Boudreau, who has been the musical director since its first tour in 1957. Each summer tour season, the collection of some of the world's most promising young musicians perform concerts as the massive symphony barge moves from venue to venue along America's waterways. The series that begins in Columbus will visit 12 cities in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The concert is free, which is remarkable in its own right, given the quality of the performers.
Concert-goers are encouraged to bring blankets, folding chairs and picnic baskets. The grounds will be open at 5 p.m., followed by the concert at 7. A fireworks display after the conclusion of the concert will be a fitting end to a beautiful and rare evening.
For older residents, the idea of coming to the river to be entertained conjures memories of an era long since passed when elegant riverboats plied America's waterways. From Twain to Rogers and Hammerstein, the uniquely American story of America's rivers have occupied a special place in our national psyche.
While there are notable exceptions, most of the world's great cities have grown up along navigable waterways. Those ports and docks were thriving places, where commerce and industry brought its people together to form a distinct community. It was certainly true of Columbus in its early days and the Tenn-Tom remains a valuable resource for our community. It has become a prime source of recreation for boaters, anglers and those who simply enjoy lingering on the banks.
If the city's past was defined in part by the river, so is its future.
On June 23 (a week from Saturday), we again have an opportunity to celebrate our shared heritage and dream of the future while being entertained by world-class musicians in a truly unique atmosphere.
You need not take our word for this, however. Ask any of those who attended the event the last time the Symphony arrived in town in the summer of 2001. The Corps of Engineers estimated the crowd at 10,000 to 12,000, an impressive turnout when you consider that that figure represents almost half the city's population.
So come early. Bring a blanket. Bring the kids. Share a summer evening with your friends and neighbors.
We are at our best when we are all together.