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So Long, Summer Thousands Converge On Comstock For Food And Music

FOR THE RECORD (September 3, 1997): Incorrect identification: Kathy Hook, who attended the Labor Day concert by the Spokane Symphony Orchestra in Comstock Park, was misidentified in a photo caption on the cover of “The Region” section Tuesday.

The symphony conductor tap-tap-tapped the podium, and, in front of 10,000 sprawled on the Comstock Park greens, filled the halcyon evening with harmony.

Across the park, three-year-old Rene Chandler, filled with peach cobbler and lemonade, wanted to make some music too.

She waved an empty water bottle, and, under the horrified gaze of her parents, whap-whap-whapped her friend on the head. The evening was filled with a howl.

“Time for violin lessons, honey,” Susan Chandler told her husband, wrestling the makeshift baton from her daughter.

The 12th annual Labor Day concert at Comstock gave the Spokane Symphony Orchestra and Chorale a forum for its talent, playing Tchaikovsky, Sousa and the score from “Jurassic Park.”

It was also the last bite of summer for the South Hill concert-goers, who for an evening turned picnicking into a cultural event. Some staked prime spots at 8 a.m.

Exotic was vogue.

Fondue pots, and plates of asparagus and polenta covered quilts. One group, awarded a prize for the second-best feast, devoured pesto pasta and tiramisu, a heaven-high stack of liquor-soaked pasta and cream.

The winning spread required judges to hop a drawbridge and sidestep a sea monster into a crepe-paper castle.

The castle was the idea of idea John Wilkinson, the pun master who conceived the theme “A Knight in the Park.”

Dinner in the castle included pheasant and grapes, lighted by long-stemmed candles. Desert was a chocolate cake shaped into a boar’s head, with marzipan teeth.

Judge Jack Geraghty liked the theme and food. The hungry mayor arrived sans dinner, but expected payment. “I didn’t bring a picnic, I’m doing the judging,” he said.

Others brought picnicking down a notch. The Chandlers whipped together a picnic after a day at the lake. The South Hill family feasted on tortellini, croissants and cobbler - made with Rene’s grandmother’s secret recipe.

Carolyn David tasted extravagance at past Comstock picnics, but now chooses to go low key, munching a chicken salad sandwich and Sun Chips.

David has been coming to the park since her granddaughter, Laura, was an infant. The teen now eyes her Sun Chips. “We used to feed everyone dinner, salad, dessert, but this is easier,” said Carolyn David.

As the symphony rolled into a hum-along cowboy overture by John Williams, white-legged men in bermudas reclined into low-back chairs.

Coolers yielded everything from ale to zinfandel. The alcohol ban in public parks was enforced with a wink.

With dusk settling, symphony director Jonathan Martin delivered a somber dedication to Katherine Gellhorn, the revered maven of Spokane arts who passed away Aug. 22.

The concert was her informal and only memorial service. Gellhorn invigorated the symphony and local artists with her energy, creativity and enthusiasm, Martin said.

“I hope we can learn and take those qualities from her,” said Martin.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color photos