Tale of trust in strangers an inspiration

Only in West Michigan—a morality tale

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL

In what has become an annual tradition of spring at Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, hundreds of people wait in line in hopes of scoring tickets to the Gardens’ extremely popular Summer Concert Series. Photo by CLIFF HIFF

Last Saturday tickets to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park’s Summer Concert Series went on sale to the general public. Even though five popular acts on this year’s bill have already sold out to Meijer Gardens Members, good tickets still remain for 17 other scheduled shows. There is no such thing as a bad seat location at the beautiful outdoor Meijer Gardens concert venue.

Being Meijer Gardens members, we were able to take advantage of a special two-week presale available to Gardens members only. So two weeks ago, Saturday morning, April 30, we found ourselves in line at the Gardens’ front door entrance at 7:45 a.m. Tickets were to go on sale at 9 a.m. and we wanted a good shot at securing two tickets to the June 26 performance of Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers. Everyone knows Martin for his comedic ability, but he is also an award-winning banjo player.

Now when we entered the line that morning, there were already at least 200 people ahead of us. They had arrived, apparently, at the crack of dawn as the Gardens’ gates opened! Why did we do this? We also knew that phone orders would begin being accepted also at 9 a.m., but past experience had told us it was difficult to get through on jammed phone lines. We thought our chances would be better in person. So apparently did hundreds more, who found themselves in an ever-lengthening line that reached upwards of 1,000 eager ticket buyers, that morning, by the time ticket sales commenced.

Two-and-a-half hours after arriving in line found a smiling Nancy Hill, just inside the entrance to the Gardens, purchasing two tickets for a twin bill performance of the Tex-Mex bands, Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys. Two gracious volunteer ticket sellers gallantly tried to accommodate every request. Photo by CLIFF HIFF

As the line slowly inched forward, it didn’t take long for us to realize that we’d be spending a good deal of the morning attempting to score a pair of Steve Martin concert tickets. From the buzz around us, we soon came to the conclusion we weren’t the only ones seeking the very same tickets. After about 45 minutes, Meijer Gardens’ volunteers began circulating down the line telling everyone that the Martin ticket sales were very brisk and if we had our cell phones, we might want to try to secure tickets over the phone. Many in line around us, including ourselves, began to do just that. No one could get through, but we all kept trying as we crept forward. Whatever came first, a live voice or a live ticket seller would fit the bill. Volunteers continued to circulate up and down the line announcing an ever-dwindling number of tickets for, what would apparently be a sold-out concert.

Everyone in line that morning thought purchasing tickets in person was the way to go, and now they were finding out that they couldn’t even place an order over the phone because of the huge volume of calls.

Now, for us, something occurred that could only happen in West Michigan. The guy directly behind us in line suddenly exclaimed, “I got through!” As he began the process of placing his order, we interrupted him with the request that he order two additional Martin concert tickets for us. He nodded and went on with his order.

When he’d finished we fished $120 in cash from our wallets to cover the cost of the two tickets. We exchanged addresses, both street and e-mail. He informed us he was told the tickets would be sent to him in about two weeks at which time he’d mail a pair on to us. At that point, he happily left the line to return home.

Again, remember this is West Michigan, possibly the only place on Earth where you could hand a complete stranger $120 cash and feel reasonably secure that you were going to receive something in return for it. We weren’t even sure he’d actually asked for two extra tickets, let alone, mail them to us.

Last week our faith was justified. The postman arrived with an envelope sent by our Good Samaritan, Gary Campbell, containing our two coveted Steve Martin concert tickets. Also enclosed was a note that said, “Where else can you give a stranger $120 and not worry. Enjoy the show.”

As for ourselves that Saturday morning, we continued in line to purchase additional tickets for another concert. When we finally reached a ticket seller at 10:15 a.m. we learned that we’d been lucky indeed as the Martin concert tickets had sold out some five minutes before—one hour and ten minutes after ticket sales had begun.

For the uninitiated, this is the ninth season for the hugely successful Meijer Gardens Summer Concert Series. A record 22 shows are scheduled between June 8 and August 31. We know of no finer outdoor venue to spend a summer evening than the beautiful and intimate 1,900-seat amphitheater. Renovations this spring expanded capacity by an additional 150 along with the addition of new onsite concessions, ticketing, and restroom buildings.

For a complete concert schedule of remaining big-name shows and details, visit www.meijergardens.org.

 

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