It's been more than 10 years since Savannahians had the chance to sit in Forsyth Park for Picnic in the Park and hear a performance from the city's only symphony, but the wait is finally over. 

The annual Picnic in the Park event will present the Savannah Philharmonic at the park's band shell, and the performance is free and open to the public. 

"This is obviously the first time the philharmonic has performed for Picnic in the Park," said David Pratt, executive director for the Savannah Philharmonic. "The philharmonic is absolutely excited to do this."

Pratt said the Savannah Philharmonic is beginning its fifth season, and this performance marks the first time the orchestra has performed for the community for free.

"I've been here over three years, and the thing I hear most from people in the community is, 'When are you going to come back to the park?'" Pratt said. "The old symphony used to play Picnic in the Park.

"I want to say thank you to the city and the sponsors ... If it wasn't for their support, this wouldn't be possible. We really hope this becomes a tradition."

Under the baton of artistic director and conductor Peter Shannon, the performance will begin at 7:15 p.m. and is divided into two parts.

"They will perform classic pops in the first half," Pratt said. "It will be music that people will know from television, radio or in a movie. ... These will be pieces of music that are a lot of fun and very high energy.

"Tenor soloist Cooper Nolan will perform 'Nussun Dorma' from Puccini, which is a piece made famous by Pavarotti. We'll also have some polkas from Strauss, as well as many others." 

After a brief intermission, the Philharmonic will perform a second half, which includes music from Broadway and movies, such as a James Bond medley, Morricone's "Gabriel's Oboe" and "West Side Story" selections featuring soloists Nolan and Lori Guilbeau.

"We have two great soloists ... from New York who we were able to get with our collaboration through the VOICExperience," Pratt said. 

The show will end around 9:30 p.m. with a "Salute to the Big Apple." 

But before the Savannah Philharmonic takes the stage, the party kicks off with the Picnic in the Park's contest, so you'll want to get to the park early to get a spot and set up a creative picnic display.

This year's theme is "Celebrate the Arts." In order to be eligible for a prize, picnickers have to register and prizes are given to attendees who are the most creative with decorating their picnic spot and sticking to the theme.

Savannah area REALTOR® is again the sponsor for the picnic contest, with Janet Howard, chair of the Global Alliance Cultural Diversity Committee, and Linda King and Bonnie Gaster, co-chairs of the picnic committee. 

"We are doing the picnic registration, providing the judges and we provide the prizes and award the prize for the picnics," King said. 

"The first-place gift basket we gave away last year was worth $600 and second place was worth about $300."

The baskets are filled with gift certificates for local restaurants and businesses, along with other items.

"Different sponsors provide different things like cookbooks, car washes, gift cards, cookies and all kinds of great stuff," King said. "We will give away baskets for first, second and third place and homiest. You know, we're Realtors, so we have to have a prize for the picnic space that ties in with the theme and ties in with theme of home and family.

"Last year, we had 30 picnics register and we anticipate we'll have more this year. Registration begins at 4 p.m. and judging begins at 5 p.m. ... But we'll be set up early and people can come on down to the park any time after 1 p.m. and sign up and start setting up their space."

Registration is free and you don't have to register to set up a picnic spot. No grills are allowed in the park and those with tents are asked to place them on the park perimeter to respect the views of those without tents.