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Sandy Carlson Makes it Happen with a Smile

Photo: Sandy (second from right) with her niece, mom, daughter, sister and sister-in-law

Anyone who has ever had any involvement with Symphony in the Flint Hills over the past decade has most likely crossed paths with Sandy Carlson, program director for Symphony in the Flint Hills. Along with her partner in crime, Operations Director Kelly Tastove, Sandy has her hands in virtually all aspects of the organization and is a driving force behind this June’s Signature Event. With everything on her plate as we approach this year’s event, we recently got Sandy to take a break long enough to give us all a chance to know her—and understand her passion for the Flint Hills—just a little bit better.

How long have you been with the organization?

Nine years. I started in January of 2012.

Tell us about your role and responsibilities. 

I am the program director, which means lots of things! I am the managing editor of the Field Journal and Commemorative Program. I organize and coordinate the Prairie Art Exhibit and Online Auction, the presenters schedule and the line up of ‘experiences’ at our Signature Event. I am also the event coordinator for our fall event, WoodFest

What’s your favorite part of the Signature Event? 

The annual reunion of family and volunteers that have become good friends over the years … and of course, the crowd in unison singing ‘Home on the Range.’

What are you most excited about for the 2021 Signature Event? 
The speakers! Prairie enthusiasts! We have a great line up this year. I’m also excited for our supporters to see our Santa Fe Trail Field Journal.

What’s your favorite memory from your career at Symphony in the Flint Hills? 

Oof, that’s a tough question because I have so many fond memories. The relationships that have been created from the many folks I’ve worked with and met through the years is what comes to mind first. The weirdness and oddness of my job. Every day is different, it is never boring. We can be found unloading a truck of supplies one day and conducting a live radio interview the next day, both of which I’ve done this week. 

Why are the Flint Hills important to you? 

I live here! My kids grew up in Chase County. My mom, my grandparents and my great grandparents are all from Chase County. The Flint Hills is an endangered ecosystem, it has to be protected. We must preserve the land and rural Kansas for future generations. 

How do you enjoy spending your free time? 

Reading, camping, gardening, home projects, hiking, front-porch-sitting and spending time with family and friends 

Tell us about your family.

My husband, David, and I were married in 2017. We had a small outdoor country wedding at my mom’s place, which was originally my grandparents’ home, here in Chase County. David and I were high school sweethearts and hadn’t seen one another for 31 years. Then when we did, “Vavoom!” We’ve been happily married for three and a half years (although David will say it seems like 20!). David welcomed with open arms my three children, Gabe, Eli and Mayah. Gabe, 24, is a KU graduate and works in state government. Eli, 22, graduated from KU a few weeks ago and will be working in Topeka. Mayah is 16 and will be a junior at Chase County Junior Senior High School. You will find David, Gabe, Eli, Mayah, my mom, sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew, mother-in-law, father-in-law, and sister-on-law, on event day—all carrying out my orders!