After they'd worked hard and played hard on the piano for 17 days, the winners of the 2022 Cliburn Competition got to party hard with their Fort Worth fans in Sundance Square.
Following the historic conclusion of the competition at Bass Hall on June 18, the three medalists — Yunchan Lim of South Korea (gold), Anna Geniushene of Russia (silver), and Dmytro Choni of Ukraine (bronze) — were given a celebrity-style police escort to the Sundance Square Plaza.
There, Cliburn CEO Jacques Marquis and board chairman Jeff King presented them on stage to an adoring crowd, and Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker declared them "honorary Fort Worthians."
The winners posed for photos and signed autographs for superfans, old and young. (Earlier in the day, even before he'd won the competition, 18-year-old Lim had already been spotted with a "Beatle-mania"-type gaggle of young fans around him at Bass Hall.)
The crowd even followed them as they were police-escorted across the plaza to a reception for Cliburn sponsors, volunteers, fellow competitors, and VIPs at Del Frisco's Grille. Inside, the laureates could finally relax with some cold and cheerful libations, heavy hors d'oeurves, and bite-sized desserts.
But the public celebration of Fort Worth's premier cultural event didn't end when the winners disappeared from view. Adonis Rose and the Fort Worth Jazz Orchestra entertained at the "Plaza Party" for hours, while attendees took selfies in front of several Cliburn-themed sculptures and backdrops and tried their best Tom Hanks-Big impression on a giant floor piano.
Food trucks and vendors kept the crowd fueled up and fed; after all, some had been there since "hot: thirty" of the afternoon. Beginning at 2 pm, folks had started gathering around a giant LED screen to watch the finalists perform concertos with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and conductor Marin Alsop. An even bigger crowd watched as the new winners were announced in a ceremony hosted by classical music radio host Fred Child.
The sun finally dropped below the horizon and string lights illuminated the plaza, setting the scene for a unique celebratory event that won't happen again for another four years.
Among those spotted in the crowd, enjoying the evening, were Jinhyung Park, Honggi Kim, Andreas Haefliger, Marina Piccinini, Kayla Caraway, Drew Robbins, Jan Falcona, Sherry Hudson, Arisa Sunio, Soohyun Yun, Natasha Wu, Jiaming Li, Lowell Boswell, Ashley Boswell, Suhail Arastu, Stephen Wheeler, Natalie Wilkins, Zoya Anjum, Melissa Shahbaz, Andrea Palmer, Barbara Lott, Rico Gulda, Orli Shaham, Christiane Schuepbach, Martin Schuepbach, Roy Rhodes, Sally King, Kayvon Shahbaz, Siwoung Song, Cameron Crates, Angela Crates, Tommy Smith, Stephen Hough, Ilya Shmukler, and Clayton Stephenson.