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Record Rainfall In The Midwest Is Curbing Outdoor Fun


The U.S. had some of the wettest weather ever recorded this spring. In the Midwest, some farmers and homeownerss were especially hard hit. And as Frank Morris of member station KCUR in Kansas City reports, that persistent rain has also cut into the entertainment and hospitality business.

FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: Out on the vast Kansas Flint Hills, Christy Davis is trudging through a muddy cow pasture on the site of a big concert that never happened.

CHRISTY DAVIS: This was - right here was our patron tent, and it was - I think they found part of it in that pond over there.

MORRIS: Davis is outgoing director of Symphony in the Flint Hills, an annual concert drawing thousands to see live classical music on the open prairie. A powerful thunderstorm on the eve of this year's show forced Davis to call it off.

DAVIS: We took a hit - took a hit with the weather, the one thing that we couldn't control.


MORRIS: One-hundred-fifty miles away in a park in Kansas City, Mo., the wind is picking up, and rain is closing another event.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We are unfortunately going to have to cancel the rest of this evening's show due to the incoming weather on the radar.


SIDONIE GARRETT: You know, when you're losing maybe half your audience per night, it's very frustrating.

MORRIS: Sidonie Garrett runs the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and says the relentless rain depresses turnout.

GARRETT: You check the weather, and you're looking at the radar. And you're thinking, oh, wow, it might rain, looks like it could rain. We've had so much rain.

MORRIS: In fact, this year through May has been the wettest ever recorded in Kansas, South Dakota, Nevada and Illinois and way above average in surrounding states. And the Midwest hasn't just been wet. It's been chilly.


MORRIS: Temperature at Wrigley Field in Chicago one night last week topped out in the 50s. The hot chocolate vendor ran out of cups. Rain has already postponed more Major League Baseball games this year than it has in some entire seasons. Fans like Cathy Scroggins have had to adjust.

CATHY SCROGGINS: (Laughter) Well, I have two - one top, a sweater and then a blanket around (laughter) me that I had purchased for $55.

MORRIS: The hospitality industry is taking a hit, too.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Nope, nope, nope.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Hang on. I'm coming.

MORRIS: At Truman Lake in Missouri, diehard fishermen launch boats from a road that vanishes into a flooded parking lot. But there aren't many people out here, and the only marina open on this huge lake is cut off from the shore.

RICK GARRISON: Not everybody has their own private island (laughter) - ready.

MORRIS: Rick Garrison uses a pontoon boat to shuttle ice, beer, soda, snacks and customers from the road to his marina. Garrison and his wife bought this floating business last year and spent the winter and a lot of their savings fixing it up.

GARRISON: Yeah - huge investment. We're 100% in (laughter). Yeah, it's - we joked about it - sink or swim. So we're treading water (laughter).

MORRIS: It's the same for Christine Letcher and her husband, who have eight cabins for rent up the road.

CHRISTINE LETCHER: Now, I mean, it's slow not just for me but everybody around - everybody. The stores - we don't buy as much ice for our ice machine - even the dumpster man. And so it just trickles down to everyone.

MORRIS: As with farming, sports, outdoor festivals and concerts, there's a season to this business, and that season is slipping away. For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Kansas City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Morris has supervised the reporters in KCUR's newsroom since 1999. In addition to his managerial duties, Morris files regularly with National Public Radio. He’s covered everything from tornadoes to tax law for the network, in stories spanning eight states. His work has won dozens of awards, including four national Public Radio News Directors awards (PRNDIs) and several regional Edward R. Murrow awards. In 2012 he was honored to be named "Journalist of the Year" by the Heart of America Press Club.