Organizers Start Working On Orchestra On The Oregon Trail

Steering Committee Formed for Second Event

Plans are underway for the second installment of Orchestra on the Oregon Trail. The event, sponsored by the Marshall County Arts Cooperative, will be Sunday, September 4, 2016, at Alcove Spring Historic Park. A full day of activities is being planned; the culminating event will be an evening performance by the Topeka Symphony Orchestra.

“By all accounts, our inaugural event was exceptional, and it was exciting to play a role in bringing over 2,000 people together in one of the most beautiful spots in Marshall County,” said Brad Ekiss, president of the arts cooperative. “We learned a lot, and we’re looking forward to making our second one an even better experience for the public, entertainers, and our volunteers.”

Although the event won’t happen for nine months, a steering committee has been formed to oversee all aspects of the production. Eleven area volunteers have accepted the task of planning the outdoor event and making sure its implementation is smooth.

“Currently, we’re talking about our vision for this event,” said Wayne Kruse who serves as the chairperson for the steering committee. “All of the leaders are coming together to define the experience. From that we’re setting specific goals and then each sub-committee will identify the objectives needed to make it happen.”

The organizers are discussing what they want people to experience when they come to the second event; they are talking about topics ranging from food to transportation to entertainment. Offering more food options, focusing on Native American experiences and contributions, and giving people more options for walking throughout the park are some of the items on the list.

“The event will be fresh,” Kruse said. “Although there will be some elements that are similar to our first, this one will offer a more integrated approach to all of the programming. Symphony of the Land is the theme we’re using to guide what music the Topeka Symphony Orchestra plays, the types of re-enactors we’ll feature, and even the types of food offered. It’s invigorating, and somewhat challenging, to sit in our meetings and discuss how to do this. The coordination will be key to the event’s success.”

Brad Ekiss also serves on the steering committee; his role as site manager is to ensure a positive and cohesive experience across the event for patrons and volunteers. “I want to make sure the overall event preserves the same tasteful, inviting, and friendly look and feel as last year, while also providing better informational signage inside and outside the event,” he said. “I’m also looking forward to working with our area law enforcement and healthcare professionals to ensure everyone’s safety and access to first aid throughout the day. Most important, I hope and pray for better weather before, during, and after.”

Ekiss is in charge of tent rental, trash, recycling, mowing, pest control, and a list of other duties related to the set-up of the park.

The work of Ekiss’s group sets the stage for all of the performers, entertainers, and re-enactors. Brian Cook is in charge of the entertainment committee tasked with finding all of the pre- and post-show entertainment as well as coordinating the concert with the Topeka Symphony Orchestra.

“We’re figuring out the program and figuring out how to improve on last year’s performance,” Cook said. “We’re looking to add a choir to the show this year, which will add a different and exciting feel to the concert. We’re hard at work trying to find pre-show entertainment to keep toes tapping all day. It’s our job to keep the patrons entertained, and we’re taking that job seriously.”

Cook is working closely with Kyle Wiley Pickett, the orchestra’s conductor and musical director, to put together the concert’s repertoire. Pickett suggested the theme Symphony of the Land as a way to pay homage to the beautiful setting, and as a way to highlight the importance of the historic trails in Marshall County. “He has fantastic ideas,” Cook said. “This concert will blow people away.”

In order to finance the event, Ken and Zita Duensing are in charge of sponsors and fundraising. Over $70,000 was raised in private donations for the inaugural event; for the second one the goal is $100,000.

“As fundraising chairs we hope to increase the amount of sponsor donations,” Zita Duensing said. “We are putting our committee together now and hope to be out talking to donors after the first of the year.”

Overseeing all of the finances falls in the hands of Deb Landoll, the committee’s business manager. Landoll was involved in the planning of the first event so she will rely on that experience to help grow this event on a sound fiscal note. In addition to her budgetary duties, Landoll is also in charge of the contracts with food vendors and will work closely with the call center hired to take telephone calls.

There are five others who serve on the steering committee: Barb Buck is in charge of volunteers, Mandy Cook is arranging the various humanities activities and also works with specific partnering organizations, Sharon Ekiss is providing direction for all of the tents, and Ron Grauer and Todd Frye are in charge of transportation and parking.

“It’s an amazing committee,” Kruse said. “This event will certainly top our first one.”

For more information people may contact Kruse at 785-713-2077 or send an e-mail to the group at [email protected].