McPherson will be well represented as the Salina Symphony takes the stage — or, more accurately, the stairs — at the annual "Symphony at Sunset" D-Day Commemoration Concert held June 1 at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum at 200 SE Fourth St. in Abilene.

This year's concert, which will honor the 75th anniversary of D-Day during World War II, will be conducted by Kyle Hopkins, professor at McPherson College.

"We also have several other McPherson area residents who will be performing in the concert: Jim Caldwell, Karen Holman, Becky Horne, Jenny Horne, Henry Littich, David Lowe, Melanie Mann, McPherson High School student Kail Stockham and McPherson College students Kento Aizawa and Lillian Oeding," Hopkins said.

The concert is one of many activities planned for the day. The Fort Riley Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard, World War II living history demonstrations, vintage military vehicle displays, a pop-up museum and activities for kids of all ages will begin at noon.

Food vendors offering everything from bierocks to macaroni and cheese, wine slushies and hot dogs will be on site beginning at noon.

The public is encouraged to bring their WWII-related items, though no weapons are allowed on federal property. Library staff members will be available to help participants interpret and label their items.

World War II veteran and author Louis Graziano will speak at 3:30 p.m. in the Visitors Center Auditorium. Graziano will share stories from his recently published book, "A Patriot's Memoir of World War II."

The music begins at 5:30 p.m. with the Salina-based band, Everyday Lights. The 1st Infantry Division Band performs at 7 p.m. with the Salina Symphony headlining the event at 8:30 p.m.

"The Salina Symphony's been playing this concert for eight consecutive years," Hopkins said. "...It's become a huge thing and we get a couple thousand people out there."

The symphony will be joined this year by guest artist Vanessa Thomas, a vocalist originally from Clay Center, who now lives in Lawrence and performs regularly throughout the country.

"Doc Severinsen discovered her at a concert in Clay Center," Hopkins said.

Thomas is known for her seamless span of five octaves, unique versatility and command of a variety of musical genres. She will be joining the Salina Symphony in performing a number of jazz standards as well as a powerful rendition of "God Bless America."

"I think that's why I got asked to conduct, since I'm a band director and we're doing a jazz set," Hopkins said.

The Salina Symphony will also play other patriotic music along with jazz classics such as "Summertime" and "Come Rain or Come Shine."

"Symphony at Sunset" is a non-ticketed event; admission is by donation. The concerts will be moved to the Abilene High School Gymnasium in case of rain. Concertgoers are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets and bug spray.

"It's just such a fabulous environment and a cool concert," Hopkins said. "It's also very accessible. ...If you've never experienced a symphony before, this is a really nice way to do it."

"Symphony at Sunset" is sponsored by Marshall Motors, Eisenhower Foundation, Community Foundation of Dickinson County and Arts Council of Dickinson County.

Commemoration Week activities will continue June 2-6. A host of activities are planned each day, including IKEducation programs, concerts, featured speakers, and a panel of World War II veterans. Visit for a complete list of activities.

For more information about the Salina Symphony, contact Adrienne Allen at 785-823-8309 or visit

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at or follow her stories on Twitter at @MiddleSentinel.