Packing a picnic and heading to the Fort Worth Concerts in the Garden has been a tradition for my family as long as I can remember. In fact, the perennial event has been such a staple in my summer plans that I decided to do some math, and discovered that this year marks my 20th consecutive Concerts in the Garden presented by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Through the years there have been many life changes-going off to college, getting married, having babies-but through busy schedules and the other mundane distractions, our family has found a way to come together for a night of music, food, and fireworks in the garden.
Our first Concerts in the Fort Worth Botanic Garden was a date with my future husband, and since we were both young teenagers, my parents and his parents came along as chaperones. That started a tradition that has lasted two decades with the six of us as the original Concert in the Gardens guest list. As we waited for that first concert to begin, we forged new and lasting relationships between the two families over fried chicken and card games. Over the years, the guest list has expanded as we added boy after boy to our family. Each new addition brought joy and changes to our concert routine and expanded our picnic blanket footprint.
Other things have changed over the years, as well. The menu has evolved from homemade delicacies to convenience foods that are more suitable for busy parents and busy kids. We’ve swapped the leisurely conversations and card games of the pre-kid years for games of peek-a-boo and rounds of Candyland. We’ve added new elements, too, like bubbles before the concert and glow necklaces when it starts to get dark. Whatever is on the agenda or the menu, it feels like we have collected everything that is good about summer and assembled it all in one place. Of course, it is just a personal little slice of heaven to see all four grandparents laughing and playing with my four kids.
There is always a moment just before the concert begins, when dusk begins to settle over the garden and some cool air begins to refresh the crowd, when I look beyond my own family to see the diversity of people who are sharing that moment. There are families, like ours, filled with kids and parents playing games. There are young couples with perfectly packed picnics from Central Market and an air of apprehension as they explore the thrill of a new relationship. There are the well-heeled groups sitting comfortably at the tables sipping glasses of wine. There are raucous groups of college buddies breaking open the beer and passing it around. The crowd couldn’t be more varied, and yet we have all gathered for an evening of comfortable culture in the form of a Fort Worth symphony concert in a beautiful garden setting. That’s when the violins begin to swell with the first notes and a hush falls over the motley crowd, and it feels like summer has officially begun in Fort Worth.
Photo: Jeffrey Washington