For about 15 years, Ben Postlethwait has joined forces with the Evergy Green Team to set up and clean up the Signature Event. Read more to learn what Ben enjoys most about the event, why this year feels like “payback” and how the event is like one big, happy family reunion he looks forward to every year.
How did you first get involved with Symphony in the Flint Hills and in what capacity?
I helped with the first two Signature Events and then a few years later started my current job doing Green Team work for Evergy back when we were Westar Energy in 2011. The Green Team has been there for set up and prep for the Signature Event from almost the beginning.
We initially got approached from an environmental education standpoint. We had a lot of volunteers in preservation of the Flint Hills and advancing initiatives that educate folks about conversation of the Flint Hills. We try to do things as efficiently as possible – one of the ways is using volunteers to set up, just like the organization uses volunteers the day of the event. We’ve gotten to the point where we know all these people involved and it’s fun to revisit them every year. It’s kind of like a family reunion.
What is the Green Team and what is its role at the Signature Event?
We’ve been around since 1989 and our focus is environmental education and stewardship. We work on projects in our service territory in the eastern half of Kansas and western third of Missouri and even beyond. There are 300-400 Evergy employees that are engaged with the Green Team. For the Symphony in the Flint Hills, we usually have 100-110 volunteers that help through the course of the week. This is our annual big project.
We leave all of the technical logistics and site planning to the professionals. At this point we know our role – we help do anything that isn’t required to be done by a professional: set up light towers, straw bales, tables, chairs. We feel like we’re a valuable member or partner. Even though we’re a volunteer crew we’re treated like an employee in the fact that we’re asked for input and solutions. We have a lot of volunteers that have a lot of skills. We bring that to the table.
It’s rare that a utility/energy company gets to be involved in such a project. I appreciate the unique opportunity we have to engage with this project, be involved, and have these conversations to tie back to the Green Team and Evergy as a whole – our focus on environmental stewardship and how we bring that to life. This is one way we can put our money where our mouth is – we aren’t just saying we want to be good environmental stewards, we have projects focused that actually do the good work.
Why is the Green Team important for SFH and the Signature Event?
We love to get work done, and like that we’re contributing to the greater good. We’re not event planners but we’re project managers and love to see the logistics come together to create something we can see. We bring lots of eager hands and the experience we’ve had by participating as long as we have.
What’s your favorite part of the Signature Event?
First, you can’t beat the sunset cattle drive. Every year, that’s the signature moment.
Other than the day of the event, my favorite time is 6-6:30 every morning before we start working. It’s quiet and not hot yet. You’re one of the few people out there on the site and you get to see the sunrise in the Flint Hills. It’s pretty rare to get to experience that since it’s on private property.
What are you looking forward to about this year’s event?
This year I feel like it’s payback – we’re at the same site the storm came through and blew everything over in 2019. I’m looking at this year as we finally get some closure on the year that we lost. I feel like there’s some unfinished business with this site. What I really like about this site is that it’s very accessible and I also really like how this site is set up. Goat Hill is just off to one side and is a neat feature.