Symphony Season: Picnic Like a Pro

If you listen carefully, you can hear it. The glide of a rosined bow across violin strings, a resonant cello being tuned, and the deep boom of a timpani drum echoing through the mountains. The sounds are still faint – still off in the future – but they are getting louder. Why? It’s nearly one of the most wonderful times of the year -- Sun Valley Symphony Season! Free concerts from world-class musicians span three glorious weeks starting this year on July 29 with the In Focus Series. The highly anticipated Orchestra Festival runs from August 5 - 23. These concerts are an opportunity to not only kick back, enjoy a broad range of programs that appeal to many listeners, and appreciate the musicians’ virtuosity, but they are also one of the social highlights of the season.

Symphony season starts soon. You don’t want to miss the chance to listen to world-class music in a world-class setting

Here, symphony is not only a noun, but a verb, and there is the right way to symphony; the proper chairs to place on the Pavilion lawn, the perfect time to show up, and very importantly, the right way to picnic. Sure, if you line up early, you may secure a coveted seat beneath the Pavilion sail, but many people love the experience of listening to the Symphony on the vast expanse of Pavilion lawn with lots of friends, food, and a relaxed, welcoming vibe. Here are 10 steps to help you picnic like a pro.

1. Invite your friends

Symphony nights are the perfect time to gather your friends together and enjoy a gorgeous night surrounded by spectacular views, listening to spectacular music. No matter who you arrive with, you are practically guaranteed to see pretty much everyone you know and ‘picnic hopping’ is a great way to start out the evening. With this in mind, it’s always a good idea to bring more wine than just your group need as you will be pouring for people who pop over to say hello. Cheers to summer!

For many, part of the fun of attending Symphony concerts is picking a spot, unpacking a picnic, and seeing friends old and new. It’s a total scene in the best possible way

2. Pick your spot

The Pavilion lawn is pretty huge and there are no bad seats, just personal preferences. Some people like to sit close to the back of the Pavilion to watch the action onstage. Others like a certain spot in front of the 14 x 25’ Big Screen, while others like to hang back and keep it casual. It’s all good!  Some patrons come early on the day of a concert to stake out their spot with a blanket or chairs, but unless you are super picky about your seating, I find that showing up an hour or hour and a half before show time is a great option. This is Sun Valley, after all, and there’s not need to fight for pole position!

Everyone has their favorite spot to sit on the Pavilion lawn during a concert. Normally, serious listeners sit closer to the Pavilion and people with children or dogs with energy to spare tend to hang back a bit. There isn’t a bad seat to be had.

3. Get comfortable

Most Symphony patrons come prepared with low-backed camping chairs. They are easy to carry, easy to set up, and most, conveniently, have cup holders so you won’t spill that lovely glass of rose! Remember, if your chair can fit a basketball beneath it, it’s too big. Need seating? The Symphony store on site sells the right size chairs, as does Pete Lane’s Mountain Sports in the Village.

4. Come early if you’re particularly interested in the program.

On many dates, 45-minutes before the music begins, the Sun Valley Summer Symphony offers Lawn Chats. These half-hour sessions offer insightful, entertaining introductions to the concerts. They are held on the Pavilion Lawn next to the Paver Bar. They, too, are free.

Ah, the humble picnic hamper – the raw canvas on (or in!) which you can create a masterpiece of delicious nibbles, from gourmet to grab-and-go

5. Prepare the perfect picnic

Though the main event of Symphony nights happens on stage, a close second is in the unpacking of a picnic hamper. Like tailgating at a Pac-12 football game, picnicking here can be an elaborate production with candelabra and catered food or a spread of cheese and crackers and trout dip in a to-go container. No matter what you choose to pack and serve, everything tastes better outside under endless Idaho skies.

Pressed for time or out of ideas? Let the pros at the Short Line Deli do the work for you. Call ahead and they will prepare the picnic basket of your dreams. All you need to do is stop by and pick it up on your way to the concert

One picnic-like-a-pro option I am definitely going to try this summer is to let the Short Line Deli at the Village pack my hamper. The eatery is known for its artisanal sandwiches but also sells a wide range of sweet and salty snacks, cheeses, wines and spirits, and beverages of every other variety. For Symphony season, or any outdoor eating needs, they also offer ‘gourmet baskets for every occasion’. Call the night before (or early the morning of) and specify what you would like them to include and for how many and then simply swing by before the music starts and grab your gourmet treats. Popular options include a sandwich, chips, a sweet treat, and additional snacks to share, including many that are made-in-Idaho or super healthy. They also can put together a salami, smoked fish, and cheese platter (featuring locally-sourced and delicious Ballard Family Dairy cheeses – the best!). No hassle, all happiness. The friendly staff at Short Line Deli can be reached at 208-622-2060.

(5A) Leave dessert to someone else
No matter what kind of picnic you pack, leave dessert up to Sun Valley with a trip to a la mode (ice cream and shakes) or the Chocolate Foundry (chocolates and sweet of every kind) in the Village.

Pick and choose your perfect picnic at the Short Line Deli. Deciding what you want to nosh on (and drink) is the only hardship you will have

6. Sip, savor, and relax. Give yourself plenty of time to spread out your spread on a picnic blanket, to nosh, and to chat. Remember, a full bar is also available on site so if you don’t feel like packing everything in, take spirited beverages off your list.

7. Also keeping ease in mind, remember you can also picnic out of the box, a pizza box that is. A few years ago when our children were very young, one of my friends suggested that instead of trying to entice them with traditional picnic fare, a more relaxing and fun option would be to bring pizza to the party. Now, with Village Station a stone’s throw from the Pavilion, this is even easier and more delicious. Grab a pie (and maybe a family-sized salad) from the popular eatery, walk about two minutes to the Pavilion, and voila! -- instant picnic! To order takeout, please call 208-622-2138 before 3 p.m.

8. Bring the kids

All Symphony concerts welcome children (ages 10 and over under the Pavilion sail) but some will be of particular interest to families. On August 11 at 6:30 p.m., a Family Concert: Symphonic Safari will turn the Pavilion will turn into a veritable zoo! Accessible selections include Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Flight of the Bumblebee, The Waltzing Cat, and more. Then, narration on fantastical creatures will delight and intrigue. Another concert that might appeal especially to young listeners is the August 19 (early start at 5:30 p.m.) Pops Night focusing on the music of Star Wars: A New Hope.  This special evening t will screen the complete film with live orchestra.

A kids’ music tent is also a draw for families. In a big tent at the back of the Pavilion lawn, children ages 4–8 can explore music through hands-on projects by Kindermusik during the concert. Reservations are available for the first 10 children and, room permitting, will be accepted on the day of the concert. The tent capacity is 12 and this great experience is free. Please call the Symphony at 208-622-5607 or RSVP to info@svsummersymphony.org.

Symphony etiquette is not fussy, it’s simply about being considerate of your fellow concert-goers so everyone can have an awesome night

9. Observe Symphony Etiquette

In addition to keeping your low backed chairs low, keeping your children’s happy shouts away from the serious listening audience, and not taking up more space than you need, it is helpful to know the rest of Sun Valley’s brand of (laid back) Symphony etiquette: Sit on the lawn in a place that matches your listening style, serious listeners up front; blankets are welcome on the lawn, tarps are not; dogs are also welcome but if your puppy has boundless energy, please stay on the perimeter of the lawn; drones are prohibited on the Sun Valley Resort property. Pretty easy, right? In addition to being considerate, please also help keep concerts green. Please recycle and throw away trash after the music has ended. Recycle your program book by giving it to an usher or keep it to reuse throughout the season. Avoid traffic and parking by riding your bike or taking the bus to concerts. Please park bikes in the racks available at the main entrance.

10. Linger for a nightcap and enjoy the sunset and rising moon and stars

When the last note has dissipated into the evening air and the applause has died down, there is no need to quickly roll up your blanket and go home. It’s light in Sun Valley well into the night and dusk is one of the prettiest times of day. Relax, linger, talk about the amazing concert with your friends and family. You may even want to head over the Duchin Lounge or Ram Bar for a nightcap.

One of the most delightful times of the summer is just around the corner. Dust off those picnic hampers, gather your low back chairs, and mark your calendars. Then plan to sit back, relax, and picnic like a pro – Sun Valley Symphony style!

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