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May 15, 2006
Contact: Margey Frederick, visitor services director, (785) 864-7103.

Wheat State Whirlwind Tour to visit High Plains landmarks, museums, industries

LAWRENCE — On Wednesday, May 24, the Wheat State Whirlwind Tour of Kansas for faculty and staff members at the University of Kansas begins its fourth day on a route south from Colby to Dodge City.

In addition to seeing one of the state’s unique limestone rock landmarks, the KU faculty will learn about water and drought on the high plains, follow a herd of buffalo, visit a wind farm and learn about the impact of rapid population growth in southwest Kansas.

The tour is sponsored by KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway. This is the ninth year about 50 KU faculty and staff members, many new to Kansas, will make the six-day, 1,500-mile tour to meet Kansans in their communities and learn about the state’s history, economy and landscape.

Sue Taylor at the Prairie Museum of Arts and History in Colby will talk with the faculty about the museum’s role as a cultural center and historical museum. One exhibit, “Prairie Life: Conquering the Great American Desert,” focuses on northwest Kansas from the 1880s to the 1930s. The exhibit not only reflects early explorers’ term for the Great Plains but a constant concern for today’s residents: water. Wayne Bossert, manager of the Northwest Kansas Groundwater district, will be on hand to talk about the future of water in the area.

In Oakley, the bus will stop briefly to view the larger-than-life bronze statue of Buffalo Bill Cody, born 10 miles west of Oakley. Cody supplied buffalo meat for the Kansas Pacific Railroad in 1868. About 20 miles south, the faculty will explore 70-foot-tall chalk pyramids, or monument rocks, jutting from a Gove County pasture. Carved by erosion that began more than 80 million years ago, the pyramids were the first chosen by the U.S. Department of the Interior to be preserved as a national natural landmark.

At 10:40 a.m., Charles “Charlie” Duff and his son, Richard, of Scott City and a crew with flatbed trucks will meet the faculty in a Logan County pasture near 401 U.S. Highway 83, where the Duffs keep about 200 buffalo. As owners of Beef Belt Feeders of Scott City, the Duffs raise cattle and buffalo for meat. This marks the ninth year Charlie Duff has agreed to take KU faculty to the herd.

The pasture is in an area known as a fossil hunter’s paradise. As the faculty members take turns roaming with the buffalo, those remaining behind like to browse Keystone Gallery, a fossil and rock gift shop, at the pasture gate. Operated by Chuck Bonner and his wife, Barbara Shelton, the gallery is in an old limestone building that once served as a church and uses wind and solar energy for power.

As the bus heads into Garden City, Don Stull, KU anthropologist who has researched the impact of the meatpacking industry in southwest Kansas for 20 years, will talk about how Garden City has worked to adjust to the rapid population growth that occurred with expansion of meatpacking. The city is now home to about as many Hispanics as non-Hispanic whites and a sizeable number of Vietnamese Americans.

In Garden City, staff members at the United Methodist Western Kansas Mexican American Health Clinic will meet with the faculty. The staff will provide an overview of the needs of families and individuals who provide much of the labor force for the meatpacking industry in southwest Kansas. The clinic’s health services and educational outreach programs, offered in English and Spanish, reach into 35 counties.

Before stopping for the evening, the faculty will head south to Montezuma to view the 170-turbine FPL Gray County Wind Energy farm. Designed to produce enough energy to power 33,000 households, the DPL Group Inc. of Florida opened the farm in December 2001. FPL sells the power to UtiliCorp United, serving Kansas and Missouri.

The day concludes with dinner at the Marchel Ranch in Dodge City, where faculty will spend the night.

Faculty new to Kansas on the bus include two administrators who will officially begin at KU on June 1: Richard Larivierre, incoming provost and executive vice chancellor who is moving to Kansas from Austin, Texas, and Gail Agrawal, incoming law dean moving to Kansas from Chapel Hill, N.C. Rick Ginsberg, dean of education who joined KU’s faculty last July, moved to Kansas from Fort Collins, Colo.

On Thursday, May 25, Dodge City Community College President Richard Burke will meet with the KU faculty on the community college’s campus before the bus heads east for stops in Mullinville, Medicine Lodge, Arlington, Inman and Hutchinson.

To view daily maps of this year’s route, visit the Wheat State Whirlwind Tour Web site at www.wheatstate.ku.edu.

Intinerary for Wednesday May 24

8 a.m. — Tour Prairie Museum of Arts and History, 1905 S. Franklin Ave., with presentation on Ground Water Management District by Wayne Bossert
9 a.m. — Depart for Oakley (23 miles)
9:25 a.m. — Arrive Oakley. Point of interest: Bronze Buffalo
9:40 a.m. — Depart for monument rocks (20 miles)
10 a.m. — Point of interest: monument rocks
10:10 a.m. — Depart for Scott City area (27 miles)
10:40 a.m. — Arrive at Duff Ranch. Buffalo Roam with Charles Duff, owner; visit the Keystone Gallery, 401 U.S. Hwy 83
11:40 a.m. — Depart for Garden City (36 miles)
12:10 p.m. — Arrive Garden City.
1:45 p.m. — Tour United Methodist American Ministries Health Clinic, 712 St. John St., with Penny Schwab, executive director
2:30 p.m. — Depart for Montezuma (46 miles)
3:15 p.m. — Arrive Montezuma. View wind turbines
3:30 p.m. — Depart for Dodge City (29 miles)
4 p.m. — Arrive downtown Dodge City
5 p.m. — Check in to Holiday Inn Express, 2320 W. Wyatt Earp Blvd.
6:15 p.m. — Dinner at Marchel Ranch Chuckwagon Cafe, 10873 Highway 50 ByPass
8:15 p.m. — Return to Holiday Inn Express

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