Wednesday August 8, 2012

LENOX -- Aided by ideal weather and a typically alluring lineup of gala performances, several hundred eager concertgoers lined up at the gates several hours early on Tuesday for Tanglewood on Parade, the 66th annual mid-summer ritual of concert cornucopia and culinary extravagance.

This year, the crowd was swelled by the event's 75th anniversary celebration of Tanglewood's opening. By early evening, the lawn was carpeted with blanket-to-blanket groups of festive patrons in a holiday spirit as the nearly sold-out Shed filled up.

Boston Symphony officials estimated the total attendance at about 15,000.

Carol DiCenso of North Providence, R.I. -- who arrived three hours ahead of time with her family to secure their usual spot under the shade of a favorite tree -- was first in line when the Main Gate opened at 2 p.m. They walked in through the Main Gate to a brass fanfare by high school music students from the Boston University Tanglewood Institute. The first-in-line tradition was established seven years ago.

"We love to hear the kids perform -- that's really the great part of the whole thing," said her husband, Bob. The couple was accompanied by their son, Geoff, and his wife, Susan, of Smithfield, R.I.

As "superintendent" of the elaborate banquet that would nourish the foursome for the eight hours ahead, Geoff DiCenso listed the menu -- bluefish paté and shrimp cocktail for starters, cheese and crackers, marinated steak, asparagus, three salads and for dessert, homemade zucchini and chocolate cupcakes as well as two exotic flavors of sorbet -- blood orange and blackberry cabernet.

Plus, he added, "champagne to start, wine throughout and cordials during the concert and the fireworks. We stretch it out over eight hours, stop-and-go eating and non-stop wine flowing. It's a very relaxing afternoon." DiCenso said he spends a week gathering and preparing the feast for the family outing.

A 40-year veteran of Tangle wood on Parade, Gerald Begun, of Queens in New York City, said he and his wife Joan keep coming back annually because "I like the atmosphere, the people around here are fantastic, the police and the guides are very polite, it's a very well-run operation."

"We love it here, it's the greatest place, it's very sophisticated," said Joan Begun, 75, having attended Tanglewood on Parade every year since 1946, when her mother, now 98 and unable to attend, first brought her as a 10-year-old.

"It was the same thing, the ‘1812 Overture' and fireworks," she recalled happily.

Also near the front of the line, first-time visitor Ty Dearing, 11, of Sarasota, Fla., said he was looking forward to John Williams, fireworks and the " ‘1812 Overture' -- yes!" His grandparents, Kathy and Carl Grove of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., brought the lad to Tanglewood as part of a Massachusetts vacation that began with a week in Boston.

Outside the Main Gate, overseeing the steady processions of incoming vehicles directed to designated parking lots and then disgorging large groups of ticket-holders, Maj. Thomas Grady of the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department de scribed the logistics as somewhat more daunting than for a regular concert.

"We get a lot more people on the grounds who don't normally attend events here, so it's more of a challenge with the parking, getting people to the right areas, the right lots where the kids are performing," he said. "Not a bad thing, people don't realize how big the campus is until they get here."

Grady, who oversees the Tanglewood detail for the Sheriff's Department, said his 13-hour shift was likely to end well after 11 p.m. by the time the parking lots are emptied.

"People move pretty well" after the concert's late-evening fireworks end, he said, "aided by Lenox traffic officers, our guys, and the parking attendants -- bar none the best you can ask for, all local kids who play on the same high school teams together, and a couple of their coaches are here."

"It's all about the [Tan glewood Music Center and Boston University Tangle wood Institute] kids. It's their day to showcase their talents, it's really nice," said Grady when asked what makes Tanglewood on Parade a special day.

"It's hot, people have good food, they have a good time and everybody's generally pretty happy," added Paula Baratto, a deputy sheriff on duty with Grady.

Returning for his fourth Tanglewood on Parade, Victor Evzokimoff from the town of Harvard said he was attracted by "the grounds -- they're just phenomenal -- the whole feeling you get is so peaceful. It's got everything.

"We like the fireworks but we hate the traffic, outgoing is brutal, but we realize we have to put up with it," he added.

"We like the fireworks," said his companion, Mary Santos, of Charlton.

Joyce Abelson, of Clear water, Fla., said she brought her grandson, Jackson Ploof, of Sterling, to the event "to ease him into the world of classical music. I figured John Williams is a good gateway to it."

Besides Williams and the Boston Pops in highlights from two of his film scores, the evening concert also featured two 1951 Tanglewood Music Center alumni, conductors Christoph von Dohnanyi and Lorin Maazel, as well as Keith Lockhart and newcomer Stephane Deneve.

During the afternoon, as youngsters cavorted on the grounds tossing frisbees, Bonaparte the Magician entertained families with his interactive, strolling, up-close magic show, and an instrument playground was set up in the patrons' Tent Club, producing a cacophony of sounds as budding musicians tried them out.