At the Civic Park, the Kings Symphony Orchestra and the hundreds gathered to see them play were treated to a breeze that’d broken a recent heat wave.

It was the perfect night for a show — the first one since before the pandemic. And despite only two rehearsals beforehand and a 30-minute warmup, it was a well-received and well-played concert. But as the sun went down, the Orchestra had one last song for their audience, to be led by a guest conductor.

Dressed in a nice tux, Daniel Coakley took to the stage and led 80 musicians through “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” He did so with the same energy and joy that rubs off on you with a handshake and a grin. Daniel was born and raised in Hanford. And while he was born with Down syndrome, it’s never dampened his enthusiasm for life.

Daniel, 32, excels at two things in life, the first of which is selling lemonade. From an unassuming stand that resembles Lucy’s booth in the Peanuts comics, you’ll find him combing through his collection of business cards, letting customers know he’s up and running. He’s been doing it since he was 15, when he and his sisters, Katy and Sarah, decided to open one.

“When you decided ‘this isn’t cool for teenage girls to be doing lemonade,’ Daniel didn’t mind,” Daniel’s mother, Kathy Coakley said while recalling the stand with Katy. “So he took it over.”

In his downtime, he’s doing the second thing he excels at — making friends.

Making a new friend comes naturally to Daniel — I learned that first hand. I went over to interview him two days before the concert, but before I knew it, he was the one filming me, interviewing me like we were on a talk show. He also makes these friends when he’s out on his daily walks, helping neighbors take out the trash, or going to the library. Along the way, he promotes his business, makes introductions and —just like that — he’s made a new friend.

Emily Navarre, Symphony Board President, says this is just what gave her the idea to bring Daniel on.

“What I wanted was to give Hanford a little bit of hope — something to look forward to during COVID. So I thought having Daniel, who’s always going around and saying, ‘hello’ to people and being really cheerful would just be the ultimate way to thank Hanford and give them a nice kind of thing to look forward to.”

And so for four minutes, he waved his wand and led the players along, adding a new title to his resume — conductor.

He’s the richest man in Hanford. And he’s my newest friend.

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