Grand Rapids Symphony Celebrates 25 Years of D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops
Twenty-five years ago, the Grand Rapids Symphony's Picnic Pops debuted with an explosion of symphonic sound echoing across the hills of Cannonsburg Ski Area topped off with a pyrotechnic display that lit up the sky above.
More than two years of planning and preparation, including erecting a stage and band shell to transform a ski slope into a concert venue, led to the first performance in July 1995, a debut that Mother Nature threatened to derail.
"It was an oppressively hot, 95-degree, sunny day," recalled Stacy Ridenour, Grand Rapids Symphony's Vice President and General Manager at the time. "Tickets were sold, but would they come in this heat?"
"We waited, and they eventually came," she recalled. "The orchestra soldiered through the heat, and the opening night was a huge success."
This summer, the 25th anniversary season of the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops opens much as it did on that steamy day in July 1995 with Ridenour's husband, pianist Rich Ridenour playing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with the Grand Rapids Symphony.
The Grand Rapids Symphony's 2019 Picnic Pops season opens with Classical Fireworks: Salute to America on July 11-12 at 8 p.m. with the rockets' red glare plus a star-spangled, spectacular salute to America.
Associate Conductor John Varineau will lead the orchestra in such patriotic melodies as John Williams' Liberty Fanfare, John Phillip Sousa's The Stars and Stripes Forever, and an Armed Forces Salute along with music by Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein.
Classical Fireworks welcomes Ridenour, a Grand Rapids native and a frequent performer in the early years of Picnic Pops, back to West Michigan as guest soloist.
Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture ends the night with a fireworks finale sponsored by Lacks Enterprises. Come for the music, stay for the fireworks. Preconcert entertainment by accordionist Michael Schaeffer, sponsored by Witness Inspection.
Benefactor sponsors for Classical Fireworks: Salute to America are Aquinas College, Chemical Bank, and TerryTown RV.
The 25th annual summer season continues in July and August with three more shows over three weeks beginning with Here Comes the Sun: A Tribute to the Beatles at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 18-19, followed by Dancing in the Street: Music of Motown and More at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 25-26.
Capping off the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops, for one-night only, is the special event Nashville: The Songwriters, Their Stories. The Symphony. Starring the Music City Hit-Makers at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 2.
Gates at Cannonsburg Ski Area open at 5:45 p.m. each night for picnicking and pre-concert entertainment, including free, kid-friendly activities such as face painting, crafts, and a musical instrument petting zoo.
Pack your own picnic baskets and coolers or purchase food from the grill at the Cannonsburg concession stand. Alcoholic beverages are permitted on the grounds, and parking is free for concertgoers.
VIP Parking Passes for the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops are available for $12. Go online to GRSymphony.org/vip for details.
Ticket Options and Prices
3-Concert Series and Flexpass Packages
Save up to 30% off single-ticket prices with a 3-Concert Series subscription for any seat or save up to 15% off single-ticket lawn seats with a 6-ticket Flexpass.
The 3-Concert Series subscription is good for any seats to Classical Fireworks: Salute to America; Here Comes the Sun: A Tribute to the Beatles; and Dancing in the Streets: The Music of Motown. Subscriptions for lawn seats are $42 for adults or $15 for children ages 2-18. Children younger than age 2 are admitted for free. Subscriptions for general admission chair seating are $75. Tickets for an individual reserved table seat are $144 or $1,152 to reserve an entire table for eight.
The Flexpass 6-Pack offers six lawn tickets that can be used in any combination, on any concert night, for Classical Fireworks: Salute to America; Here Comes the Sun: A Tribute to the Beatles; and Dancing in the Streets: The Music of Motown. Flexpasses are $102 for adults. Flexpasses cannot be used for the special event in August.
Individual Concert Tickets
All single tickets for all concerts are $5 more on the day of the show.
Lawn tickets for all concerts are $20 for adults ($25 day of show) or $5 for ages 2-18 ($10 day of show).
Other individual tickets are $30 for reserved chairs ($35 the day of the show), $51 for individual table seats ($56 the day of the show), and $408 for a full table of eight ($448 day of show).
MySymphony360 members can attend for $15 ($20 day of show). Active duty, reserve and National Guard members of the U.S. Military may purchase up to two tickets for $15 each ($20 day of show). Children younger than age 2 are admitted for free.
Members of the community receiving financial assistance from the State of Michigan or U.S. Military households can receive up to four free tickets through the Grand Rapids Symphony's Symphony Scorecard.
How to Get Tickets
The 3-Concert Series, Flexpass, and individual table and chair tickets can be purchased through the GRS box office by calling (616) 454-9451 ext. 4 weekdays; or in person at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100; or online at GRSymphony.org.
Tickets also are available at the gate at the night of the concert for an additional $5. Group discounts are available for groups of 10 or more people by calling (616) 454-9451.
Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts, the breadth of its educational programs, and the innovation of its initiatives to support diversity, equity and inclusion as well as to serve the wider community in non-traditional settings. Led by Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, the Grand Rapids Symphony presents nine concert series each year. Its Gateway to Music provides a matrix of 18 unique access and educational programs for adults and children of all ages. Altogether, West Michigan's largest performing arts organization offers more than 400 performances per year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens or people with disabilities. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus, and the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival, which returns in April 2021. GRS collaborates annually with Opera Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Ballet and biennially with the Gilmore Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo.
To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit the website or
This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.