Ceremonies set for grand opening of Jurassic Park exhibit at Sternberg Museum

HAYS, KS -- Centered on an exact fossil cast of a creature even larger and more awe inspiring than the tyrannosaur known as Sue, "Jurassic Park: The Life and Death of Dinosaurs" will have its grand opening ceremonies at Fort Hays State University's Sternberg Museum of Natural History, 3000 Sternberg Drive, Hays, on Saturday, Feb. 2, beginning at 9 a.m.

The public is welcome.

The museum will be closed all day Friday, Feb. 1, for final preparations on the huge traveling exhibit, the largest collection of dinosaur skeletons currently traveling the United States. Museum hours will be expanded for Sunday, Feb. 3, when it will open at 10 a.m. instead of the usual Sunday opening time of 1 p.m. Closing time will remain at 9 p.m.

Opening ceremonies will include remarks by Don "Dino Don" Lessem, who produced the Jurassic Park exhibit in conjunction with Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment.

Other speakers at the grand opening will be FHSU President Edward H. Hammond, Dr. Jerry Choate, director of the Sternberg Museum, and Jana Jordan, director of the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Elected officials and the Hays Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors will help cut a special ribbon to officially open the exhibit.

Tickets are still available for the afternoon of Feb. 2. Tickets are available by calling, toll free, 1-877-332-1165. A Web site, www.jparkdinos.com, is also available for ticket sales and information. Pre-sale ticket prices are $6 for adults, $4 for children and senior citizens. At the door it will be $7 adults, $5 children and senior citizens.

After opening ceremonies, the exhibit will be open for viewing by museum members until 1 p.m., when the exhibit will open to the public. The various levels of museum memberships, which can be purchased at the museum's front desk, entitle holders to free admission at all times and to special viewing periods such as this one.

Lessem, the exhibit's producer, will be available at the museum during the Grand Opening weekend. Lessem, who has written many popular books on dinosaurs and who has consulted for movies and documentaries on dinosaurs, will be in the exhibit gallery until noon on Feb. 2 during the special members preview.

He will again be in the museum from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Seibel Lobby to autograph copies of his books, which will be on sale in the Museum Store.

On Sunday, Feb. 3, Lessem will be on hand to speak with teachers at the special Teacher Open House from 2 to 5 p.m. in the museum classroom. This event is sponsored by McDonald's Restaurants of Hays, Russell and WaKeeney.

Lessem will also present a free public presentation from 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday night in the Fort Hays Ballroom in FHSU's Memorial Union. He will present "Jurassic Park in the Dark -- Dinosaurs: Hollywood vs. Real Life."

Other special events planned in conjunction with Jurassic Park's stay at the Sternberg Museum are presentations by two of the premier paleontologists in North America and the world: Dr. Jim Kirkland, discoverer of the Utahraptor and Utah state paleontologist, and Dr. Phil Currie, curator of Dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada.

Kirkland is scheduled to appear in March and Currie in April.

"Jurassic Park: The Life and Death of Dinosaurs" includes several newly-found species never before seen in North America, among them a dozen mounted skeletons in addition to the Giganotosaurus (JIG-a-NO-to-SAW-rus), an animal discovered in 1993 in Patagonia, Argentina. It is larger than the largest Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.

The original fossil, from which the fossil cast at the Sternberg Museum was made, is more than 80-percent complete and is kept in the Museo Carmen Funes in Plaza Huincul, Argentina.

One of the other full-mount fossil skeletons has particular interest for the Sternberg Museum -- the Stegoceras (ste-GOS-uh-rus), a small bonehead dinosaur whose name is similar to the more familiar but much larger Stegosaurus (STE-guh-SAW-rus). The first complete skull and most of the skeleton of this animal were discovered in 1921 in Canada by George F. Sternberg. This animal was eventually discovered to be the very first specimen of an entire family of dinosaurs. The Sternberg Museum has in its holdings a cast of the skull of that animal, and now has, while this exhibit is here, a cast of the skeleton discovered by Sternberg.

Jurassic Park also includes a dozen "fleshed out sculptures" of species and also props and sculptures from the movies Jurassic Park and Lost World.

The exhibit will be at the Sternberg Museum through May 5.

"Jurassic Park: The Life and Death of Dinosaurs" is a production of Dinosaur Exhibitions under license from Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment. All Universal/Amblin royalties and a portion of ticket revenues are donated to international dinosaur research.

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Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu