May 24, 2004

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Contact: Mary Jane Dunlap, University Relations, (785) 864-8853.

KU faculty bus rolls into central Kansas to visit in Lucas, Marquette, Lindsborg

LAWRENCE -- On Friday, May 28, about 40 faculty from the University of Kansas will travel into central Kansas for the final day of the six-day Wheat State Whirlwind tour.

KU faculty will explore the scenic canyons of Wilson Lake, Grassroots art in Lucas, a Kansas crafts shop near the Czech settlement of Wilson, a community using a modern homestead approach to attract residents recently covered in the Washington Post and a Swedish settlement that combines its history and cultural background to attract tourists.

Throughout the tour, KU faculty are focusing on innovative and traditional ways Kansas communities are employing history and natural resources for economic development.

Friday begins from Hays with a look at a natural tourism resource often missed by motorists traveling on I-70 through Kansas. Jim McCauley, Kansas Geological Survey scientist at KU, and Don Steeples, KU professor of geology, both of whom regularly serve as commentators for the tour, will guide the faculty along the canyons and steep hills on state highway 232 along Lake Wilson in Russell County.

Along I-70, Steeples also plans to point out three sinkholes that he and Richard D. "Rick" Miller of the Kansas Geological Survey are researching for the Kansas Department of Transportation. Sinkholes, depressions caused by a collapse of cavernous areas, are common in areas of central, southern and southeastern Kansas.

At 9 a.m. the faculty will arrive in Lucas, a Russell County community known for eccentric and grassroots art. The faculty will drive by the Garden of Eden, described as an internationally recognized example of grassroots art and a monument to individualism created from concrete and limestone by S.P. Dinsmoor. They will stop at the Grassroots Arts Center, 213 S. Main St., which promotes the work of self-taught artists, especially those whose work tends toward environments rather than individual works.

At 10:30 a.m. the bus will stop at the Kansas Originals Market, at I-70 and K-232 highways, a shop that promotes Kansas tourism and artists. Operated by the Post Rock Opportunities Foundation, the shop specializes in work by people who are age 62 or older, disabled, minority, low-income or women in business for themselves. The foundation was developed by a small group of people in north-central Kansas to improve the economy and encourage area talent.

At noon, Marquette Mayor Steve Piper will meet with the faculty to discuss the city's modern homesteading offer to give away 80 lots to anyone willing to move there and build a home. The Washington Post recently reported that Piper, a grocer, regularly fields calls from New York and California with questions about the Smoky Hill River community of 400, northwest of McPherson.

"I get calls every day from people wanting information," Piper said. "They see Kansas as a safe haven and a good place to raise their families. And it is."

In 2003, Marquette residents "borrowed an economic development idea instituted by Abraham Lincoln: give land away," the Post reported. The community purchased 50 acres of farm land for $100,000 and divided it into 80 lots. Early this year, more than 20 lots had been claimed and more than 400 people had inquired about the remaining lots.

The faculty will conclude the 2004 tour with a visit to Lindsborg, 10 miles east of Marquette. Established in 1869 by Swedish immigrants, Lindsborg promotes its heritage and cultural arts as Little Sweden in Kansas. The community attracts visitors year-round with events celebrating Swedish traditions such as Svensk Hyllningsfest in October of odd-numbered years and a Midsummer's Day Festival on the third Saturday of June each year.

At 1 p.m. KU faculty will have lunch at the Swedish Crown Restaurant, 121 N. Main. Marci Penner, executive director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation, will join the faculty at 1:30 p.m. to talk about the foundation's mission to help preserve and sustain rural culture. Penner, a KU alumna, works in the foundation's offices, located on her family's farm near Inman. She also directs the Kansas Explorers Club, a foundation project to encourage the general public to explore Kansas.

Before boarding the bus to return to Lawrence, the faculty will have an hour to explore Lindsborg on their own, walking along the business district or the residential streets, perhaps to the Bethany College campus. Bethany College is a four-year liberal arts college established by the community's pioneers.

Sponsored by KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway, the tour helps introduce many faculty new to Kansas to their new home state and to fellow Kansans. In his greeting to the 2004 faculty embarking on the whirlwind tour, Hemenway advised them to prepare for a memorable adventure that can enrich their awareness of their home state and its people.

When the faculty bus returns to the Kansas Union at 6 p.m. Friday, May 28, they will have traveled more than 1,500 miles in six days crammed with memories of Kansans they met in more than 20 communities along the way.

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