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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Public Art attracts the eye and creates memories

Ft Smith, AR
Ft Smith, AR

Every day I fall more in love with public art. Whether it's a magnificent sculpture, a building-sized mural or a small piece of creative graffiti, it adds to the charm that attracts visitors. Maybe I'm more susceptible than many, but I remember the art before I remember the shopping.

This summer has filled my memory with an array of creative energy.

Salina, KS
I love "The Unexpected" public art project in Ft. Smith, AR. Although I haven't yet seen this year's new murals, I'm still infatuated with the ones from last year. It's always difficult to pick a favorite but I have to say it's the animals and human figures that brought my itchy fingers to my iPhone and camera.

Lindsborg, KS

In late June we visited Lindsborg and Salina, KS on our way to Colorado. Of course, I fell for the Dali horses residing along the streets of Lindsborg. We spent the night in Salina and I enjoyed several works of art there.

Colorado Springs, CO

Downtown Colorado Springs is loaded with sculptures depicting their history. What a great way to show the unique history of the city.
Kansas City, KS

In July, I visited Kansas City, KS and loved the downtown murals there. The ones I photographed are large murals covering the sides of buildings. Again, I loved them.

Kaw Point, KCKS

At the scenic Kaw Point, a statue of Lewis and Clark points toward the Kansas City, Missouri skyline.

Branson, MO

Galena, KS
In Branson, the fountains at Branson Landing are certainly works of art. Put a great sky behind them and it's beautiful.

In Galena, Kansas, a beautiful mural celebrates their Route 66 history.

In September, I will attend a conference in St. Joseph, MO, and then head north to explore Roseville and the Minneapolis-St Paul area. You know I'll be looking for the public art displays!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Lindsborg, Kansas, a town full of charm, history, art and a herd of Dala horses

If you're looking for a herd of horses - only not the wild variety - you'll fall in love with Lindsborg, Kansas.

Known as Little Sweden, this enchanting town just 23 miles south of I-70 (at Salina, KS) has plenty of charm to offer visitors. They've captured ownership to one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs with their herd of Wild Dala Horses that you'll find throughout town.

We discovered that a "Dala" horse refers to a style of wooden horse first designed in Sweden in the 17th century. Designed and first built in Dalarna, in central Sweden, today they are considered an authentic symbol of the country.

The horses that line the Lindsborg streets celebrate artistic creativity, the town's history and its Swedish heritage. We loved walking through the town, looking for, and admiring, each horse. We also visited several shops and decided to hang out for a while at a local coffee shop. We shared coffee, iced tea and pastries and a few friendly chats with the locals and other visitors.

Lindsborg loves the arts. In addition to the horses that live on the streets, the town is home to the longest-running continual performance of Handel's Messiah and Broadway RFD is the longest running outdoor theater in the state. Local schools are recognized for their outstanding music programs. The town boasts sixty working artists and nine public working studios and galleries.

We saw some beautiful old homes.

 Since we discovered Lindsborg on our way to Colorado, we didn't have time to do the Dala factory or the historic tour, but we definitely plan to return. I think we only touched the surface. We want to return, explore the town and meet some of the folks that call it home.

Yes, Lindsborg cast its charm on us!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Moses, a creative and spectacular live show in Branson, MO

In the theatre lob

When Moses began playing at the Sight & Sound Theatre in Branson, I knew I had to see the parting of the Red Sea and God giving him the ten commandments.

Most Americans hear the biblical story of Moses as children. And most of us probably couldn't imagine Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egypt to the Promised Land. This familiar story, brought to life, is as impressive to an adult audience as the story is to imaginative children.

It takes a village --- almost literally to produce such a show. The Sight & Sound Theatre employs 250 people, nearly 50 of them on stage during the production. The lavish sets and technology combine with the talented casts to bring the Bible to life.
The stage with a backstage
tour group

The entire production, from concept to performance, takes several years and hundreds of creative minds working together. Founders Glenn and Shirley Eshelman of Lancaster, Pennsylvania,  bring Bible stories to life. With the 400 people employed in Pennsylvania, they move shows and performers between their Living Waters Theatre in Lancaster and Sight & Sound in Branson.

The man who plays Moses possesses a powerful voice that befits the leader, and the entire casts shines in their musical numbers. It's the combination of this talent, great stories, superb special effects and a theater especially designed for large panoramic productions, that make it all exceptional.

I especially enjoyed the portrayal of Moses. As a child, I thought of him as a superhero and never once suspected he was an ordinary man. This production shows Moses as an ordinary person, called by God to fulfill an extraordinary role in human history. He doesn't think of himself as a leader. He stutters and he is insecure. He wants to please God but doubts his ability. That show of humanity makes the story much more real.

Some of the sets
For those who may not know or remember the Old Testament story, the Egyptians have long held the Hebrews as slaves. When Pharaoh gives the order that every Hebrew male child be killed, Moses's mother sets him adrift in the Nile river. Pharaoh's daughter finds him and raises him as her own son. Moses grows up a prince, but rejects that lavish life to help his own people. God commissions him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt, but Pharaoh refuses to let them go.

Our backstage tour guides
Before the show, we took the backstage tour, which is well worth the time and $5 admission. Our tour guides, two cast members in the show, explained the challenges the set designers, stage hands and sound people face with such a large production. The stage is huge, but the 49 actors and 47 live animals in the production fill it up. With over 1,000 lights on the stage and many set changes, the 26 stage hands are kept busy.

The show plays twice a day on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and once on Thursday. Check for times. The show runs through October 20, 2017.

The Sight & Sound Theatre is located at 1001 Shepherd of the Hills Expressway in Branson, MO. For tickets, call 800.377.1277 or book online.

Photos are prohibited during the production.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Put Time Traveler at Silver Dollar City on your 2018 Calendar!

Time Travel poster

Today, on National Roller Coaster Day, Silver Dollar City raised the bar a few notches with the announcement of its newest ride. Time Traveler, a revolutionary new concept in roller coasters, will open in 2018. Billed as the world's fastest, steepest and tallest spinning roller coaster, ti comes to the United States from German manufacturer, Mack Rides. Specially designed for the beautiful Ozark Mountain terrain, the track will cross itself 14 times in the nearly 2-minute long ride.

Check out these facts:
The Load Station

1. Fastest - with a top speed of 50.3 miles per hour.
2. Steepest - 10-story, 90-degree vertical drop ... straight down.
3. Tallest - 100 feet at its tallest point.
4. First & Only with Three Inversions - Dive Loop, Vertical Loop and Zero-G Roll
5. First & Only with a Vertical Loop - 95-foot tall loop
6. First & Only Double Launch - 0-47 mph in 3 seconds; 30-45mph in 35 seconds

It's going to be a fantastic ride and for those who love the rides, you're in for a huge thrill. The spinning is a game-changer for roller coasters.

Construction in progress
I love the concept of combining an attraction that celebrates the past (which Silver Dollar City does so well) with the innovation of the future. In announcing the new ride today, the park told the story of a young scientist, inventor and clockmaker who lives in Silver Dollar City, with his wife, Anna, and their only daughter, nine-year-old Emmaline. Charles, a dreamer, is enthralled with Jules Verne's creative genius. Charles teaches Emmaline that it's wonderful to dream, but it's not enough. You have to do something about it. Their mantra becomes "Dream Big. Do Good."

Charles invents Time Traveler and next year will invite people to take a tour. So get your ticket or season passes, and plan for the future and the past at Silver Dollar City.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Dinosaurs at the Museum at Prairiefire

Overland Park is home to the Museum at Prairiefire. I first visited shortly after it opened in 2014. The museum operates in partnership with the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Luckily for the Midwest, this gives residents and visitors access to exhibitions and educational resources that would not otherwise be available in this part of the country.

The current exhibition, The World's Largest Dinosaurs, runs through September 4, so there is still time to visit. According to the museum's website, "The huge dinosaurs called sauropods ... rank among Earth's great success stories, roaming the planet for 140 million years."

I have not yet seen the this exhibition, but I intend to. For today, I will focus on the marvelous building that houses the museum. It is one of my favorite buildings in the Kansas City area and if you haven't yet seen it, put it on your must-see list.

It is the first building in North America to feature dichroic glass on its exterior. NASA developed dichroic glass, a light-bending material, to protect astronauts' eyes from the sun's radiation.

It absorbs light s tone color on the exterior and filters it differently on the interior. This creates a constantly changing pattern of reds, oranges, golds and blues depending on the time of day and the brightness of the sun. The architect created the design to showcase the prairie. Whenever I'm in the area, I drive by just to see what the museum looks like at that moment.

In addition to the museum and its exhibitions, there's great food and shopping in the area, so plan to your visit accordingly. Check out the museum's light pattern when you arrive and when you leave. It will change.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Two Must-See Scenic Views in Kansas City, KS

Lewis and Clark at Kaw Point

Monument to Sacajawea,
who later joined the
Lewis & Clark
The Kansas River flows into the Missouri River at a point that became a camping spot for the Lewis and Clark Expedition well over 200 years ago. Today that point, known as Kaw Point, is a favorite spot for visitors to Kansas City, Kansas. As you stand on the point in Kansas, you look over the confluence of the rivers to Kansas City, Missouri.

Kaw Point Nature Trail
When I visited on a beautiful, but hot, July day, a few were beating the heat in their boats or canoes. The spot is a local favorite for canoeing and kayaking.

It's hard today to imagine what the point looked like when Lewis and Clark visited. One can imagine the bluffs were tree-covered and beautiful on that June day in 1804. When the expedition reached Kaw Point, it consisted of 45 men, including Lewis and Clark, three boats, four horses and a dog.

Today the Kaw Point Park offers nature trails as well as the awesome view.

View from Kaw Point Park

Rosedale Arch
The second great view of Kansas City, Missouri, from Kansas City, Kansas, is the Rosedale Arch. (Rosedale, once its own town, is now part of Kansas City, KS). This WWI Memorial, built in 1923, honors those who served and gave their lives in the 42nd Rainbow Division (comprised of National Guard units from 26 states and DC). Located just a short distance off I-35, the arch site offers a great view of the city.

The arch, inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, was designed by John LeRoy Marshall, a Rosedale resident.

View from the Rosedale Arch