Have you heard of the Picnic Pops Concert Series? It's an outdoor summer concert series hosted by the Grand Rapids Symphony, and it's definitely worth adding to your "To Do" list in West Michigan this summer!
The concerts are held on Thursday and Friday nights through August first at Cannonsburg Ski Area. A ski area might sound like a strange location for an outdoor concert, but really it works out perfectly because of the giant hill! You're able to bring your own lawn chairs & blankets for seating at this event, and because of the slope of the seating area, you're able to get a great view of the stage at the bottom of the hill, even if you're sitting way at the back!
If you don't want to go to all the trouble of packing your own chairs & blankets, they have other seating options available too. You can have them reserve a lawn chair for you, or you can go all out and actually reserve a table & chairs set up right at the base of the stage! We sat at one of the tables, and you really do get a spectacular front row view of the symphony from there.
Apart from enjoying the music of the Grand Rapids Symphony in an outdoor setting, the other unique thing about the Picnic Pops series is that you're actually encouraged to picnic while you're there! The concerts don't start until 7:30pm, but gates open at 5:30pm so you have lots of time to get in & picnic! We saw a whole range of picnickers, from those who brought sandwiches or bought a hamburger at the concession stand, all the way up to people who reserved a table, brought their own tablecloth, place settings, and candles, and had an elegant meal before the concert!
If you're thinking about bringing the kids along, this is definitely a family-friendly event! Kids ages 15 & under get special ticket pricing (as low as $4 per concert!), and those under two years old get in for free. There's also a Family Fun area open before the concert. with a different craft each week, face painting, and an instrument petting zoo where kids and adults can try select instruments from the orchestra. And if your kids get restless before the show is over, there's plenty of ski hill that they can run around and play catch on!
The show they were performing the night that I attended was their annual "Classical Fireworks" concert, which included lots of songs that paid tribute to America, as well as some favorites from Music Director David Lockington, who will be stepping down from 16 years of leading the symphony at the end of the 2014/2015 season. One of my favorite moments of the night was when the symphony performed a song that incorporated all of the songs of the branches of the Armed Forces. They asked everyone present who had served in each branch to stand when their song was played, and it was touching to look around and see all of the men and women who had given so much to serve our country, and the overwhelming applause that was given to each of them.
At the conclusion of the concert, the symphony performed "1812 Overture," accompanied by loud, cracking fireworks to play the part of the cannon. Once the song's final notes were played, the ski hill was lit up with a dazzling array of fireworks! It was an outstanding fireworks display, and a great way to end the first night of the Picnic Pops for this season.
Picnic Pops features a different theme each week. You can purchase tickets on their website for individual shows, or buy passes for multiple concerts in the series. The schedule for the rest of the 2014 season is below: