Kansas City, Mo. The largest World War I memorial in the country will be open to the public this weekend for the first time since it closed in 1994.
Rededication ceremonies Saturday will mark the climax of a $46 million effort to bring new life to the once-crumbling Liberty Memorial. Money still is being raised for a second phase to create a World War I museum below the memorial.
"It's been a real eye-opening experience for me from the historical perspective, and it has become a labor of love," said Karen Daniel, president of the Kansas City Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners, which has guided restoration.
"I can't wait until dedication day," Daniel said. "We will do that with great pride and respect for those who have come before us."
The ceremony is free and will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday on the memorial's south mall.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and an area native, will address the audience. Foreign dignitaries are scheduled to attend.
The event also will include performances of the U.S. Navy Band and the Metropolitan Youth Choir, along with fireworks displays and the relighting of the memorial.
Planning for the restoration began in earnest after Kansas City voters in 1998 approved by 72 percent a temporary half-cent sales tax for the project.
Improvements include making the memorial more accessible to people with disabilities. Ramps lead down to the proposed museum as well as up to the buildings above. New restrooms also were installed.
Carl Strikwerda, a Kansas University history professor, calls World War I America's lost war.
"That is unfortunate, particularly in the present climate, because America's global role really begins with the First World War," said Strikwerda, a consultant on the memorial's new exhibits. "It is the event that pushes us toward world leadership."