5 Ways To Safely Pay Your Respects In And Around Kansas City This Memorial Day
Although parades are canceled this year and your usual Memorial Day celebrations may look a lot different, there are still ways to pay your respects at local memorials or at home.
Want more ideas like this sent straight to your inbox? Sign up for the KCUR Adventure email, and every week we'll tip you off to goings-on around town.
In easier times, Memorial Day serves as the symbolic start of summer — a long weekend at the lake, backyard cookouts with burgers, a patriotic concert downtown.
But this year the holiday, like everything else, is different.
During the Civil War era, Americans — from the North and from the South — decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers, flags or wreaths.
What started as Decoration Day became known as Memorial Day, and it’s been celebrated with parades and other festivities on the last Monday in May since 1971.
We might still get together in small groups, with cloth masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizer at the ready. But parades and concerts are canceled this year, so here's how you can still pay your respects at local memorials or at home.
1. Kansas City's Symphony Celebration at the Station
The Kansas City Symphony’s Celebration at the Station is one of the largest free Memorial Day weekend concerts in the Midwest. The annual event draws crowds of 50,000 people to the grounds of Union Station and the National World War I Museum and Memorial.
But, due to ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event — which would have marked its 18th — was canceled. Instead, the Symphony is teaming up with KCPT to present a “best of” compilation broadcast.
See performances from Kansas City favorites Bobby Watson, The Elders and Oleta Adams, with songs such as “Danny Boy” and “Taps.” The Kansas City Symphony will also perform “Sing Sing Sing” and Tchaikovsky’s rousing “1812 Overture.”
Mezzo-soprano and Kansas native, Joyce DiDonato, will perform “Shenandoah” and “Over the Rainbow” from her home in Spain.
And, of course, there will be booming cannons and fireworks — just not live or in person.
The broadcast is scheduled to air at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 24, and again at 8:30 p.m. on Monday, May 25 on KCPT/Channel 19. KCPT also will simulcast on YouTube TV through the PBS channel.
2. Rosedale World War I Memorial Arch
The Rosedale Arch at 35th and Booth Street in Kansas City, Kansas, was dedicated in 1924 to honor those who served in World War I.
During World War I, Kansas National Guard recruits were part of the Rainbow Division. After the war, Hudson Boulevard was changed to Rainbow Boulevard in honor of “the Rosedale boys who gave their lives in France and those who saw service there.”
Area resident and WWI veteran John Leroy Marshall designed the monument, which was inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France.
You can find the Rosedale Arch in Mount Marty Park, up a curving drive to a small parking lot. Walk up a few short flights of stairs (or take the accessible sidewalk), and you’ll find terrific views of downtown Kansas City.
At night, you can catch a glimpse of the arch from the intersection of Rainbow Boulevard and Southwest Boulevard.
3. National World War I Museum and Memorial
This year’s Memorial Day commemoration activities will not be open to the public. Instead, a modified program — with social distancing measures in place — will stream online for the public to “pay respect to those who bravely served.”
The opening ceremony on Monday, May 25, at 10 a.m. includes remarks by Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas, and musical performances by Kansas City native Casi Joy (of NBC’s “The Voice”).
At noon, a bell tolling ceremony features a bell that rang out to mark the dedication of Liberty Memorial in 1926. And at 2 p.m., a ceremony installs 100 new Walk of Honor granite bricks, dedicated to veterans.
The museum is closed, but the grounds of the museum and memorial are open to the public. A display of 140 U.S. flags will call attention to the impact of veteran suicide; an estimated 140 veterans die by suicide each week.
Use the hashtag #MemorialDayAtHome on social media to share names and photos of loved ones who served, reflect at a local war memorial, or wear a poppy pin as a symbol of remembrance. You can also send a note to those on the front lines through Operation Gratitude.
Find the free online stream at theworldwar.org/live starting Monday, May 25 at 10 a.m.
4. Citizen Soldier Statue
Kansas sculptor Jim Brothers’ “Citizen Soldier” is located in the Centennial Plaza at the headquarters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). The statue was commissioned to celebrate the VFW’s 100th anniversary and pays tribute to all branches of the military.
Brothers, who died in 2013 in Lawrence, Kansas, was known for his statues of military heroism.
Twelve of his bronze sculptures are featured in the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia, and his work is on display at the Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. He also created a life-size statue of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Kansas native, in the Statuary Hall in the U.S Capitol.
5. 9/11 Memorial
Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives on September 11, 2001, including first responders. The terrorist attack prompted two Overland Park firefighters to apply for a piece of steel from the World Trade Center towers to create a memorial at the Overland Park Fire Training Center.
SFS Architects worked with members of the fire department to design the memorial, which features the 14-foot, 2.5-ton steel beam, and incorporates sunlight, water and natural materials. Zahner, which also worked on the September 11th Memorial at Ground Zero, supplied etched bronze, as well as fabrication.