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May 8, 2006
Contact: Margey Frederick, visitor services director, (785) 864-7103.

KU faculty to visit eastern Kansas May 19 on Day 1 of Wheat State Whirlwind Tour

LAWRENCE — On Friday, May 19, about 40 University of Kansas faculty will visit sites along Kansas' eastern border on the first day of the Wheat State Whirlwind Tour, which provides new KU faculty quick lessons in the state's history, culture, economy and traditions.

The faculty will begin with a look at the economic boom in western Wyandotte County fueled by the Kansas Speedway and the adjacent 400-acre Village West development in Kansas City, Kan. Together, the speedway and shopping center are a magnet for about 10 million visitors a year. Darren Cook, director of facilities operations for the speedway and former director of facilities for Kansas Athletics Inc., will give a quick overview of the speedway, which opened in five years ago.

The bus will head south to parts of eastern Kansas being proposed for the Freedom’s Frontier: Bleeding Kansas and the Enduring Struggle for Freedom National Heritage Area, part of the National Parks System.

“We want people to see and hear about the influence this area has had on the history of the United States, especially as it relates to the Civil War,” said Margey Frederick, director of special events and visitor services. “There’s tremendous potential for an economic boost from heritage tourism here. We’ll be driving in and near some of the most significant Bleeding Kansas area counties in eastern Kansas on this first day.”

Arnold Schofield, Fort Scott regional historian, will board the bus at Trading Post in Linn County to explain Bleeding Kansas and the significance of the May 19, 1858, massacre along the banks of the Marais des Cygnes River to the Civil War. Now historian and director of the Mine Creek Battlefield site, Schofield retired in 2005 after more than 35 years as senior historian at the Fort Scott National Historic Site. Scholfield will guide the faculty to Fort Scott, where in addition to visiting the military fort site, they will visit the historic downtown business district that is attempting to rebuild following a 2005 fire and view an exhibit of photos by one of Fort Scott’s best known native sons, the late Gordon Parks.

The KU faculty will have lunch at the Kress Tea Room and Pie Pantry, reopened by owner Crystal Bittinger after the March 2005 fires that caused an estimated $10 million to $15 million in damages in the business district.

After exploring downtown, the faculty will stop at Mercy Health Center to see a collection of photographs and poems by Parks, who following his death at age 93 on March 7 in New York City, was buried near his parents in Fort Scott’s Evergreen Cemetery just south of the health center. Carla Bryant Farmer, director of marketing and development at Mercy Health Center, and Ken Lunt, former Fort Scott mayor, will talk with the faculty about Parks and his work. Park’s 2005 memoir, A Hungry Heart, includes a poem inspired by his friendship with Lunt in recent years.

In 2004, Fort Scott Commuity College established the Gordon Parks Center to celebrate Park’s achievements and philosophies and to promote artistic creativity, cultural awareness and diversity. KU’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications honored Parks on Feb. 10 as the recipient of the William Allen White Foundaton’s National Citation.

Before returning to Lawrence, the faculty will stop in Miami County at the Louisburg Cider Mill, a family agribusiness started by Tom and Shelly Schierman in 1977 that now includes agritourism events and a year-round market that sells apple cider, Lost Trail root beer and Lewis and Clark sarsaparilla beverages.

Sponsored by the KU Chancellor’s office, the Wheat State Whirlwind Tour began in 1997 as a way to introduce faculty and staff new to Kansas to the home communities of many of their students. The stop in Miami County is the first ever on the tour. Following commencement weekend at KU, the trip continues Monday, May 22, through Friday, May 26, traveling west before circling back to Lawrence.

Intinerary for Friday, May 19
8 a.m. — Kansas Speedway tour with Darren Cook, director of facilities operations
8:45 a.m. — Depart for Trading Post and Mine Creek Battlefield (65 miles)
9:45 a.m. — Arrive at Trading Post (Marais de Cygnes Massacre State Historic Site)
10:10 a.m. — Arrive at Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Site, with Arnold W. Schofield, historian, site administrator
10:40 a.m. — Depart for Fort Scott (30 miles)
11:15 a.m. — Arrive at Fort Scott, tour Fort Scott National Historic Site
11:55 p.m. — Walk to downtown
Noon — Lunch at Kress Emporium and Pie Pantry
12:45 p.m. — Shop downtown Fort Scott, visit with residents
1:30 p.m. — Depart for Mercy Hospital
1:40 p.m. — View Gordon Parks exhibit
2:10 p.m. — Depart for Louisburg
3:05 p.m. — Arrive at Louisburg Cider Mill
3:45 p.m. — Depart for Lawrence
5 p.m. — Arrive in Lawrence, KU Visitors Center

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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