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Diana, A Celebration, Union Station Kansas City: Time to say good-bye to a legendary exhibition

Attendance is poised to top 100,000 for Diana, A Celebration at Union Station Kansas City. More people will have visited the exhibition in Kansas City than in any other location in the United States. Surely this is due in considerable part to the royal wedding in April, but it is also a testament to the regard in which the late Princess of Wales is still held.

Among the highlights of the past few months was the Royal Wedding Giveaway. It was an opportunity for Union Station and its partner companies to make a grand gesture that would be much appreciated by the recipients (go to the Union Station Facebook page to hear the winner notification). After all, a wedding reception worth $25,000 is quite a prize.

Not an institution prone to resting on its laurels, Union Station has plans for more special exhibitions covering a wide range of subjects. The next one, which comes to Kansas City June 24, is Art of the Chopper. It is quite a change from Diana, A Celebration, but it promises to be an event to remember. There will be 35 unique custom motorcycles — choppers — on display, along with information about their 30 creators.

The world of the chopper is a fascinating one that dates back to around the end of World War II. It was brought to public view in the movie Easy Rider and has grown out of the American desire for the freedom of the open road.

Originally, choppers were basically stripped down motorcycles. All the excess equipment, including windshields and fenders, were removed to make the machines lighter and faster. Then the modifications became more and more artful, until today, some of the bikes are considered works of art. One should not be surprised to find hard-core bikers and art lovers standing shoulder to shoulder admiring these rolling sculptures.

Tickets for Art of the Chopper will soon be available at the Union Station ticket office and online at www.unionstation.org.

So now it is time to bid farewell to Diana, A Celebration, as well as this blog and to welcome Art of the Chopper. Good-bye People’s Princess. Hello king of the road.

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Diana, A Celebration, Union Station Kansas City: 75,000 visitors and counting

At 75,000, Diana: A Celebration, the exhibition at Union Station that chronicles the life and charitable works of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, has significantly exceeded attendance expectations.  Union Station officials expect the numbers to rise considerably higher before the exhibition ends June 12.

The last Union Station special exhibition, Dinosaurs Unearthed set an attendance record of more than 100,000, but it was open 22 weeks longer.  Thus “Dinosaurs Unearthed” had an average weekly attendance of 2,778.  So far, Diana is averaging about 6,818 visitors a week, giving it a 245 percent advantage over Dinosaurs. In other words, if the weekly average attendance for Diana remains the same for the rest of the exhibition’s run, it will see more than 95,000 visitors in less than half the time it took Dinosaurs to be viewed by 100,000 people.

“That so many people heard about and came to see Diana: A Celebration from all over the Midwest and the nation is certainly exciting,” said George Gaustello, president and CEO of Union Station. “Such numbers show that Union Station has become the kind of destination attraction it should be. We’re already getting ready for the next big exhibition, Art of the Chopper,which will attract a different audience and help expand awareness of the Station and its ability to bring in visitors.”

To accommodate the large number of Diana fans, Union Station will open the exhibit on Mondays, when the it is normally closed, for the remaining weeks of its stay in Kansas City. Visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets well ahead of time and to plan to attend on a weekday to avoid the largest crowds.

“With the kids out of school, Diana: A Celebration makes a perfect weekday summer excursion,” Gaustello said.  “People of all ages enjoy learning Princess Diana’s story.”

Tickets for Diana: A Celebration are available online at www.unionstation.org or at the Union Station ticket office and the Sprint Center box office. More information is available at www.unionstation.org/diana.

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Diana, A Celebration, Union Station Kansas City: Tyler, Katie and Joanna make finals in Royal Wedding Giveaway

They have first names, but they are under lock and key for the moment. Tyler, Katie and Joanna are the three finalists in Union Station Kansas City’s Royal Wedding Giveaway. Their short essays explaining why they should win the grand prize are posted at mix93.com, awaiting the outcome of a vote to determine which essay is most creative.

The prize description bears repeating. Here it is, along with the contest rules, from the Union Station news release announcing the contest:

“In honor of the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Union Station presents a Royal Wedding Giveaway. The grand prize (a $25,000 value) includes:

• Wedding reception for 250 people in Sprint Festival Plaza at Union Station Kansas City, with tables, chairs, linens, food and non-alcoholic beverages

• $500 gift certificate for purchase of a wedding dress

• Flowers

• One hotel room for two consecutive nights at the Kansas City Downtown Marriott

“Each contestant will be asked to write a brief original essay answering the question: Why do you deserve a royal wedding? (The deadline for entries was May 17. No more entries will be accepted.)

“The Grand Prize winner will be announced June 6, 2011.”

Diana, A Celebration, the exhibition at Union Station that sparked the idea for this giveaway, is now approaching an attendance of 75,000. A new contest to celebrate this milestone will most likely be announced soon.

The exhibition continues through June 6 in the Bank of America Gallery. Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, the Union Station ticket office, the Sprint Center box office and www.unionstation.org.

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Diana, A Celebration, Union Station Kansas City: HeartAches sing as exhibition nears end

Time is growing short for Diana, A Celebration, as it moves toward its final weeks at Union Station Kansas City. The months since the exhibition opened have been extraordinary in terms of the number of people who have passed through. At last count, more than 62,000 men, women and children had experienced this chronicle of the life and charitable work of the People’s Princess. Judging from the responses, it has touched many hearts, even among those individuals who expected to get nothing in particular from the experience.

It seems fitting that in the final days of the exhibition, the HeartAches ensemble from The Heartland Men’s Chorus should serenade visitors with Elton John’s famous “Candle in the Wind,” which he revised from its original version to honor the late princess after she died in an automobile accident on August 31, 1997.

The HeartAches’ performance will be in the Bank of America Gallery, outside the Diana exhibit at noon on Saturday, May 21. It will consist of a number of songs besides “Candle in the Wind” and serves as a tribute to Diana for her hard work in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In many ways, the princess was a leader in this struggle, breaking through misunderstanding and misconception not only through her words but also through bold action.

As much as anything, it seems to be Diana’s courage that attracts so many people to her, even so many years after her death. It was a courage made all the more admirable and fascinating because of her obvious vulnerability and self-doubt. In just the year before her death, she appeared to grow enormously as a person and to find her place in a world that seemed to attack and reject her as often as it poured out its love to her.

As the closing days of Diana, A Celebration draw nearer, it is appropriate to cite a few more comments from people who have visited the exhibition. They do more to reveal the emotions Diana arouses than anything else (comments edited for grammar, usage, spelling, etc.):

“Amazing! What beautiful exhibit for simply an amazing, beautiful, angelic and inspiring precious Young woman! Wow! Loved it!”

“The exhibit was thought-provoking, interesting, beautifully laid out and educational. I was impressed and did not expect to be.”

“The exhibit left ou feeling how lucky we were to have had her in our world and feeling inspired to do good works.”

“Wonderful exhibit of Diana’s dresses and other personal items. It was very moving to be so close to things that were part of her life.”

“I loved everything about the exhibition and wish that there had been more to see, but I realize that one can’t bring everything. Worth every dollar.”

Diana, A Celebration continues only through June 12, 2011. Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, the Union Station ticket office, the Sprint Center box office and www.unionstation.org.

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Diana, A Celebration, Union Station, Kansas City: HeartAches to sing “Candle in the Wind” and other tunes

At noon on Saturday, May 21, the HeartAches, a small ensemble made up of members of The Heartland Men’s Chorus, will perform the version of Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” written in honor of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. The performance will be held in the Bank of American Gallery of Union Station Kansas City where the exhibition Diana, A Celebration, is currently on display. The original, handwritten lyrics for “Candle in the Wind” are part of the exhibit, along with the original musical notation. The free concert will include several other songs.

There is more to the HeartAches’ appearance than the connection of “Candle in the Wind” with Princess Diana. The Heartland Men’s Chorus, Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, has been performing in Kansas City and around the world for 25 years. The not-for-profit volunteer group is a member of GALA Choruses, the international association of the lesbian and gay choral movement that represents 190 choruses in Australia, Europe, South America and North America.

Formed when the AIDS epidemic was claiming many lives in Kansas City and elsewhere, The Heartland Men’s Chorus appeared as a strongly positive force on the arts landscape. Even as some of its members were claimed by the epidemic, the chorus kept singing, bringing several shows a year to the people of Kansas City and building a reputation for excellence. It seemed a united, joyful response to a terrible disease.

At the same time the chorus was making its presence known, Princess Diana was beginning to speak out and bravely confront the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. She was among the first influential people to touch and hold AIDS patients, demonstrating that one would not contract the disease from casual contact. She helped put a true face on the epidemic, showing how it affected not only gay men but straight men, women and children.

In a way, this performance by the HeartAches brings two important forces in the fight against HIV/AIDS together in a moving celebration of courage and caring. It is certain to be an emotional moment for everyone who listens and understands.

Tickets for Diana, A Celebration are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, the Union Station ticket office, the Sprint Center box office and www.unionstation.org. The exhibition will remain at Union Station through June 12.

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Diana, A Celebration, Union Station Kansas City: Do Kate and William mark a fresh new era for a troubled monarchy?

There is talk around the media that the marriage of Kate Middleton and Prince William means that the “tarnished crown” has been restored to its sparkle. Not that the crown has not had its rough patches in the distant past. There was Henry VIII, after all, and few other scalawags along the way. Still, there might be something to the most recent recovery.

John Hughes, writing in The Christian Science Monitor, tells the story of King George VI and an incident in South Africa when the monarch was traveling with his family.  Even then the media were along for the ride:

“The royal railway carriage, with its widescreen windows for better viewing, was parked for the night. By accident, the accompanying railway car carrying the press drew alongside it. To the amazement and delight of reporters, they beheld the king reenacting for his wife and daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, the Zulu war dance he had witnessed earlier in the day.

“It was a rare and delicious lapse of regal decorum, the images of which served only to enhance the popularity of the king with his public. He had already endeared himself to the British people by steadfastly refusing to leave Buckingham Palace during World War II, remaining in London and sharing the dangers of the German bombing.”

What for King George was the source of a “bump” in popularity, was for later members of the royal family cause for embarrassment. There was, for example, Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince Andrew’s questionable financial dealings and a number of other peccadilloes and problematic relationships.

And then, of course, there was the very public and lengthy spat between Princess Diana and Prince Charles. The fallout did not end with their divorce, either.

However, Hughes argues that things are changing. He believes the recent royal wedding “brought uplifting color and spectacular pageantry to the fore at a time when the world is beset by problems and strife.” At the same time, England continues to benefit from the presence of Queen Elizabeth, for whom decorum and stateliness are the natural order of things.

Nevertheless, as Hughes points out, monarchy in general is on the decline. It is being challenged right now in country after country in North Africa and the Middle East. So will kings and queens be a thing of the past in England?

Not likely. The evidence from the past few months indicates that people love royalty, even if they live in a representative democracy. The outpouring of affection and admiration for Prince William and his wife, as well as for Princess Diana in the United States where a bit of cynicism should be expected, makes it clear that putting people up on pedestals is still a popular pastime.

There will be a new monarch one day. There will be more royal weddings. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to learn more about one royal in particular: Princess Diana. Diana, A Celebration, continues at Union Station Kansas City through June 12. Tickets are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, the Union Station ticket office, the Sprint Center box office and www.unionstation.org.

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Diana, A Celebration, Union Station Kansas City: Only 5 weeks left

It is difficult to believe that Diana, A Celebration, has been at Union Station Kansas City for 10 weeks. Only five weeks remain before the exhibition, which is in its last North American appearance, will be on it way back to England. Jun 12 came quickly.

But there is still plenty of time to purchase tickets and see this award-winning presentation before its last day, June 12. From all indications, the trip is well worth it. Outstanding reviews continue to come in from people who have seen Diana, A Celebration.

Here are a few examples (edited for spelling, grammar, etc.):

“I honor of Prince William’s wedding we went to the display. I enjoyed learning about her childhood. The collection of her clothes with the pictures of her wearing them was beautiful. The wedding dress was good to see.”

“The exhibit was thought-provoking, interesting, beautifully laid out, and educational. I was impressed and did not expect to be.”

“The exhibit was just what a fan of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, would love. Her elegant dresses were as stunning in person as in photographs. The exceptional styling and craftsmanship of those outfits, including her wedding dress, were obvious. To have seen her in person must have been a life-altering event. The environment was very good, so kudos to Kansas City’s Union Station.”

“The exhibit left you feeling how lucky we were to have had her in our world and feeling inspired to do good works.”

“Well worth the time to view priceless jewels, childhood articles, gowns/dressed and the fabulous wedding.”

“Wonderful exhibit of Diana’s dress and other personal items. It was very moving to be so close to things that were part of her life.”

“We loved the tracking of Diana’s life from childhood on including her wonderful charity work. And the clothes were just great. I believe I enjoyed them more than the spectacular wedding dress. We came away from the exhibit with a good feeling and would recommend it to anyone interested in such things.”

“It was  great forum for the three generations of women in our family (who just celebrated a wedding, a 25-year wedding anniversary and a 50th wedding anniversary!) to reminisce, admire, compare and discuss design, weddings, families, jewels and history.”

“I went to see the Diana Exhibit because I was in awe of her and what she stood for. After leaving the exhibit, I love her even more. I was surprised to see the large selection of items to view. I loved every minute of it and would highly recommend stopping in. I left with bittersweet feelings. So glad I could experience it, but sad because it brought  back to the forefront how I felt when she died. This is one you don’t want to miss!”

So little time left for an event that has moved thousands of people from all over the Midwest. Tickets for Diana, A Celebration, are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, the Union Station ticket office, the Sprint Center box office and www. unionstation.org.

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