Public invited to see 'dinosaur tail' during reception at Hays Regional Airport

HAYS, KS -- Fort Hays State University's Sternberg Museum of Natural History is the place to see dinosaurs, and that message is now soaring far and wide.

One of the Beechcraft 1900D airplanes operated by Great Lakes Aviation, which provides service between Hays Regional Airport and Denver International Airport, now sports a colorful advertisement for the Sternberg Museum on its tail. The advertisement shows a large T-rex and carries the words, "Sternberg Museum of Natural History" and "Hays, Kansas."

The airplane operates in the Great Lakes Aviation system, which means that in addition to Hays and Denver, the Sternberg Museum "dinosaur tail" is seen throughout Colorado and in Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico and Texas.

To celebrate this novel approach to promoting the Sternberg Museum, several groups are joining to welcome the public to a reception at the Hays Regional Airport on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 5. The event is sponsored by the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development and its Fly Hays Committee, the city of Hays, Fort Hays State University and its Sternberg Museum of Natural History, and Great Lakes Aviation.

The public should come to Hays Regional Airport between 3:15 and 3:30 p.m. Wednesday to enjoy refreshments provided by Great Lakes Aviation and to see the colorful Sternberg Museum advertisement. Mary Osborne, an account executive for Great Lakes Aviation, will tell about her experience of seeing the Sternberg Museum airplane in Nebraska recently and will talk about the importance of airline service to Hays and the surrounding area. Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, Dr. Jerry Choate, director of the Sternberg Museum, and Lavern Squier, executive director of the Coalition, also will make brief remarks.

The program, which will begin at about 3:30, will be brief because the Sternberg Museum airplane is scheduled to arrive at 3:38 p.m. After the airplane arrives, the public will be allowed outside onto the tarmac to see the tail.

The unusual advertising opportunity has a price. Fort Hays State University is renting the tail space from Great Lakes Aviation for $2,000 a year for two years, with some financial assistance from the Fly Hays Committee and the Hays Regional Airport.

"We thought this was an excellent investment," President Hammond said. "It's fun and unusual, and our message will reach people at airports who, obviously, are the people who are inclined to travel. The timing is excellent, as well, because the 'Jurassic Park: The Life and Death of Dinosaurs' exhibit will be on display at the Sternberg Museum from Feb. 2 to May 5, 2002. This is a great way to get the word out about this fantastic traveling exhibit."

The exhibit features a full-mount fossil cast of Giganotosaurus (JIG-a-NO-to-SAW-rus), a new species discovered in Patagonia, Argentina, in 1993. It is larger than the largest Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered. The original fossil, more than 80-percent complete, is in the Museo Carmen Funes in Plaza Huincul, Argentina. The cast made from that skeleton made its public debut at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA, in 1997.

The traveling exhibit built around Giganotosaurus is the largest collection of dinosaur skeletons currently traveling in the United States, including several newly found species never before seen in North America. Included are a dozen other mounted skeletons, a dozen "fleshed out sculptures" of species and also props and sculptures from the movies Jurassic Park and Lost World. Among the sculptures are Velociraptor (ve-LOS-i-RAP-tor), Dilophosaurus (dye-LOH-fuh-SAW-rus), the spitting dinosaur in the movie, and the 80-foot, long-neck Mamenchisaurus (mah-MEN-kee-SAW-rus).

Another animal, Argentinosaurus (ar-gen-TEEN-o-SAW-rus), may be the largest known dinosaur, but very little of the skeleton has been found. A single vertebra measures more than 6 feet in height and is almost 5 feet wide. The animal is estimated to have been from 115 to 150 feet long.

The exhibit has a lot of animals that people haven't seen before -- new species from South America and China. It includes fossil casts, sculptures, movie props and actual fossils, which include amber specimens, fish, turtles and a clutch of dinosaur eggs excavated in China as well as the fully mounted specimens and others represented by individual bones.

Another attraction of the exhibit is a special effects "extinction theatre" hosted by Jurassic Park/Lost World star Jeff Goldblum.

Tickets for "Jurassic Park: The Life and Death of Dinosaurs" are available by calling, toll free, 1-877-332-1165. A Web site has also been established for information and online ticket purchasing at Ticket prices are $6 for adults and $4 for children and senior citizens. Tickets at the door will be $7 and $5.

"Quite a few people in the local community still have not visited the first-class terminal at Hays Regional Airport," Squier said. "This reception is our way of providing an opportunity for people to see the regional airport and also publicize the Sternberg Museum and the upcoming Jurassic Park exhibit. I hope a lot of people will come out to enjoy the refreshments and see the Sternberg Museum airplane."

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