A lot of what I talk about here on the Indiana Insider blog is great things for families to do in the Hoosier state. But every once in a while, my husband and I get away for a little grown-up time. Our last date (that didn’t involve going grocery shopping) was at Conner Prairie in Fishers (a northern suburb of Indianapolis) for a Marsh Symphony on the Prairie concert.
There are really three great things about Symphony on the Prairie:
1. The music: The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra has done an outstanding job of choosing a wide variety of musical genres to perform this summer. We attended the “Classical Mystery Tour” night, which had a Beatles-imitating band performing with the ISO. Some concerts are more classical symphony than others, but with a total of 13 weekends’ worth of performances, there is something for everyone.
2. The people watching: Someone recently described Symphony on the Prairie to me as “sophisticated tailgating” and it kind of is. You can rent tables and have dinner catered. Many people bring small, portable tables; ice buckets and long-stem wine glasses; candles (the cordless electric kind are nice) and chairs. Or you can go the simple route, which is what we chose. Picnic blanket, a small cooler with drinks and a few appetizers and a pizza we picked up on the way into the park. There’s no right or wrong way to “do” Symphony on the Prairie. But I enjoy looking around and seeing all the various approaches.
3. The 1859 Balloon Voyage: This is a new addition to Conner Prairie, as well as the symphony events. In addition to inviting me out to experience the symphony, Conner Prairie’s Angela Tuell arranged for Mike and me to go up in the 1859 Balloon Voyage. So before the concert began, I went to secure our flight time. I chose 8:30pm because I thought going up 350 feet into the air as the sun was setting would make for a romantic experience.
So after a few songs, Mike and I got up from our spot under the trees on the hill and headed over to the Balloon Voyage experience. We watched, admittedly a bit nervously, as a couple of groups made the ascent before us. But the “kid” working the ground confidently answered all of our questions, putting us at ease. (Turns out that “kid” is in charge of all the visitor experiences in the park!)
When it was our turn, we walked right onto the balloon, making small talk with the people standing on either side of us. The balloon’s “basket” is actually kind of a donut shape with a hole in the center and can hold up to 20 people. Our pilot gave us a few tips, including that we would encounter a slight bump as we went up, and we were off.
I lasted about 50 feet. That’s when the sight of the ground disappearing beneath me started making me more than a little nervous. At about 75 feet, knowing we weren’t even halfway to the top, I did the best thing I could think of. I sat down on the ground.
So here is where I’d love to tell you that the rise to the top was exhilarating and the view was breathtaking. But in truth, my view was of the gray metal surrounding me as I sat on the floor of the balloon. A very nice woman next to me kept encouraging me to look straight out, not down, but I wasn’t so sure.
However, once we made it all the way to the end of the tether — the full 350 feet — and we weren’t going any higher, I stood up and looked. Boy, am I glad I did.
The sight below — 7,500 people on the lawn listening to the “Classical Mystery Tour” — and the sight out toward our home and to the Pyramids at 86th and Michigan were calm and beautiful. The sun was setting, the wind was calm and we could hear the distant strains of the orchestra.
I remained standing and gazing out for the entire descent back to level ground. Apparently 350 down isn’t as frightening to me as 350 feet up. When we reached the balloon platform again, I realized that I’d forgotten to take any pictures. This one is courtesy of Conner Prairie:
When we returned to our blanket, I laid back, listening to the symphony and watching as the illuminated balloon rose into the navy sky and gently returned over and over again. It was a truly serene moment, one that left me thinking I might go up again, this time brave enough to stay standing for the entire ride.
Even though the kids are headed back to school, there is still plenty of summer left to enjoy Marsh Symphony on the Prairie (with or without a trip on the Balloon Voyage). Choose from the five remaining concert weekends.
All seating is general admission. Regular advance adult tickets are $20 (Gate price is $25). Advance tickets for children (2-12) are $10 (Gate price is $12). Children under two get in free. (Because it’s lawn seating, this is a great venue for kids! And also a great excuse for grown ups night out, as well.)
1859 Balloon Voyage tickets are $15/person plus the cost of admission to the park (or the symphony performance). Click here for information about a $5 coupon from balloon sponsor BP/ampm.