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University Relations

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May 20, 2005
Contact: Margey Frederick, KU Visitors Center, (785) 864-2341.

KU faculty bus travels to Lucas, Palco, Nicodemus, Colby on May 24

LAWRENCE -- On Tuesday, May 24, University of Kansas faculty traveling on the Wheat State Whirlwind tour will travel deeper into the Smoky Hill region of north central Kansas headed west with stops in Lucas, Palco, Nicodemus and en route to Colby on the High Plains of western Kansas.

Sponsored by KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway, the six-day tour introduces many faculty new to Kansas to their new home state and to fellow Kansans. Throughout the tour, KU faculty focus on innovative and traditional ways Kansas communities employ local history and natural resources for economic development.

North central Kansas is home to Don Steeples, KU vice provost for scholarly support and the McGee distinguished professor of geophysics, who co-directs the tour with Margey Frederick, KU visitor center director.

Both Steeples and Jim McCauley, KU assistant scientist with the Kansas Geological Survey, have accompanied the tour for six years, and they enjoy guiding the bus into the scenic canyons of Wilson Lake in Russell County. They sprinkle their tour commentary with geologic terms and tales. Both note that the fossil-rich landscape surprises travelers venturing off the interstate a few miles in either direction.

Tuesday, the faculty will travel Kansas roads north of I-70 from Mitchell County into Lincoln County, also known as Post Rock Country, to Russell County for the first stop at 9:15 a.m. in Lucas. En route, they will learn about Vonda Stone Quarry, a stone-cutting firm in Sylvan Grove that produces decorative limestone art for homes and businesses. Settlers on the treeless prairie used limestone for fence posts and housing.

In Lucas, Rosslyn Schultz, director of the Grassroots Arts Center, 213 S. Main St., will talk with the faculty about the center that promotes the work of self-taught artists whose work lies outside fine art and beyond folk art. Faculty will also learn about 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, an early settler.

At 11:30 a.m. the faculty will arrive in Steeples' hometown, Palco, a Rooks County community whose population numbers about 240. Steeples and Frederick have invited several Palco and area residents, including Polly Bales of Logan, to meet with the faculty for lunch in the Palco township hall. Ruth Ann Bigge of Stockton will cater the lunch.

Several Palco residents who are active in the Palco Community Development Authority will talk with the faculty about efforts to preserve their communities. The PCDA owns the town's one gas-station building (the town once supported four gas stations, three grocery stores and two cafes) and has helped obtain more than $1 million in state and federal grants for several projects, including street and sewage treatment maintenance.

After lunch, the KU faculty will visit Palco's high school to learn how the Internet and closed-circuit television give area students a wide range of distance learning. The faculty will also walk to the grain elevator, less than half a block from the high school, for a quick lesson in buying and storing wheat. Before leaving Palco, the bus will travel a short distance to visit the Steeples family farm. In past years, Dave Steeples has given some faculty members their first ride in the cab of a combine.

At 3:15 p.m., the faculty will arrive in Nicodemus, the oldest surviving frontier African-American community in Kansas, which was named a national historic site in 1996. Named for a slave who bought his liberty, Nicodemus was established by Exodusters from Kentucky in 1877, and the earliest settlers survived in dugouts, lacking timber for homes. The population peaked at 400 in 1880 and today numbers about 20.

Tuesday will conclude with dinner at Pizza Hut in Colby. On Wednesday, the faculty will visit Colby's Prairie Museum of Art and History and learn about water conservation in the area. They will stop in Oakley, Gove County, Logan County, Garden City and Dodge City, where Hemenway and alumni from southwest Kansas will join them for dinner.

More information and photos from previous tours are online at

Tuesday May 24, 2005
7:15 a.m. Load bus
7: 30 a.m. Depart Concordia for Lake Wilson (87 miles) Point of interest - Sylvan Grove
8:45 a.m. Tour around Lake Wilson (11 miles)
9:15 a.m. Arrive Lucas
Drive by Garden of Eden
Tour Grassroots Arts Center
10:30 a.m. Depart Lucas for Palco (62 miles)
11:30 a.m. Arrive Palco
Lunch at town hall with local residents
Steeples wheat farm - Don and Dave Steeples
Grain elevator
Distance learning
3 p.m. Depart for Nicodemus (16 miles)
3:15 p.m. Arrive Nicodemus
National Park Service
4 p.m. Depart for Colby (80 miles)
5:30 p.m. Arrive Colby
Check in to Holiday Inn Express, Colby
6:15 p.m. Board bus
6:30 p.m. Dinner at Colby Pizza Hut
7:45 p.m. Return to Holiday Inn Express


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