Sunday, June 17, 2012

My husband and I went to the opening night of Symphony on the Prairie at Conner Prairie in Fishers last night to hear Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which happens to be the music we heard on our first trip to the prairie, which we think was probably about fifteen years ago. The music is performed by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra inside that big bandshell with all the pretty colored lights, and people sit in folding chairs or lounge about on blankets spread over the grass. There may be wine involved. Indeed, a great many of the audience members at Symphony on the Prairie take the relaxed atmosphere as a license to get  pleasantly buzzed, and there's a giddy note in the applause after each piece of music, with some people lurching a bit unsteadily to their feet to shout "BRAVI!!!!" just before stifling a gentle burp.

When we go, we always take a substantial picnic in a basket, as well as a fully-stocked cooler. Ditto, folding chairs, a camp table, and the old king-sized comforter from our bed (the one Izzy ruined by chewing a black pen on it) and some pillows.

But there's an awful lot of peripheral stuff that has to be packed too, in order to make the whole experience on the prairie more comfortable. Because, you know: NATURE. Nature will sometimes have her way with you, and out on the open prairie, she likes particularly to blitz you with heat and mosquitos. It's important to take stuff along not only to make your meal more easy to eat, but also to force Nature to keep her distance.

Here's my list, not only for your information, but also so that I'll have it handy for my own reference. The ones I keep writing on paper disappear. I blame Nature. I know she's responsible somehow.

In the Picnic Basket:
- at least two citronella candles, more if there are several people in the group: I like the three-wick kind that
   some in the little pretend-galvanized steel buckets.
- an Aim-n-Flame, unless you can light those candles by the force of your will
- a squirt bottle of Off or some other insecticide
- several cardboard-on-a-paint-stirrer fans
- plates
- cups, if all your drinks aren't in bottles or cans
- napkins
- plastic forks, spoons, knives
- salt and pepper
- a bottle opener/cork screw (because if you forget these items, you might as well just go home)
- a bag for your trash
- some wet dishcloths sealed in a plastic bag, to be used to wipe off dirty stuff or the occasional bird
  offering: curse you, Mother Nature
- a container of baby wipes or similar, for wiping sticky wine off self (don't ask); also for removing frosted
  brownie residue from fingers
- binoculars, which come in handy for seeing the actual keys of the piano a special pianist is playing, ditto for
   violins and other instruments being played by a soloist
- any non-chilled food items you plan to eat, such as potato chips, croissants, or the aforementioned
- a roll of toilet paper. Just. Because. Shut up.

In the Cooler:
- the wine
- the beer

And if there's room for anything else...
- food that needs to be chilled, and this includes any CHOCOLATE you bring with you. Because if you put
  your chocolate in the picnic basket, you will be so very, very sad and sorry that you did
- At home before we leave, I always fill a mixing bowl with some ice cubes and about six cups of cold water, adding one teaspoon of almond extract. Soak however many washcloths you need per person until they're completely saturated - the washcloths, not the people, silly - and press them gently to rid them of excess water. Put the wet, chilly washcloths into a plastic ziploc bag and seal it well: use them on the prairie for wiping off your feverishly hot forehead, arms and legs. Sometimes it gets really darned hot out there, and those washcloths always seem like a decadent treat.

And also:
  I mentioned above that we also take our huge old bed comforter, because the prairie is often so relaxing, you just don't feel like sitting through the whole performance. To that end, we also have a number of crummy-looking pillows that used to do duty on the couch, but which now are fit for nothing better than head duty outdoors. We also take folding chairs, our folding camp table and a wee little folding table I bought at Wal-Mart that is just the right height for putting your drink on if you're sitting on the ground. Basically, think of it as a three hour camping trip, although you obviously can't take a tent, an awning or a barbecue grill. Which is a shame, because Symphony on the Prairie is the only place on earth, I would ever remotely consider camping.

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