HAYS, KS -- Nancy Harman, principal of O'Loughlin Elementary School in Hays, didn't know whether she should be upset or amused.
Harman, who volunteered many hours last fall with other local educators to travel around Kansas presenting "Sue" workshops for teachers, was visiting with an educator in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History last June in our nation's capital when she mentioned that "A T.rex Named Sue" was coming to Hays.
No, she was told, that can't be.
Yes, she insisted, it is.
No, she was told again, Sue can't be coming to Hays because she is only going to visit major U.S. cities.
When Harman was finally able to convince the educator that Sue was coming to Hays, he urged her to go see the special exhibit of Sue that was then on display in Washington's Union Station.
Unfortunately, just as Harman discovered that people in large cities may underestimate Hays, so those who live in northwest Kansas may be underestimating the prestige of this amazing exhibit.
Fort Hays State University officials are urging residents of Hays and surrounding communities not to take the Sue visit for granted. The visit to FHSU's Sternberg Museum of Natural History is being publicized throughout Kansas and into adjoining states by McDonald's Restaurants and by Pepsi-Cola. Interest is running high and the number of out-of-town visitors may make tickets difficult to obtain during prime visiting hours, such as weekends. In fact, all of the school-hour slots for class visits have already been filled, and classes now must schedule their visits outside of school hours.
Area residents should buy advance tickets now, especially if they are expecting family or friends from out of town to visit the "A T.rex Named Sue" exhibit on a weekend.
To order tickets, call 628-4286 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays or visit . To purchase tickets over the Internet, you must use a VISA, MasterCard or FHSU University Card. Tickets to the museum, including the Sue exhibit, are $5 for adults and $3 for children and seniors.
"A T.rex Named Sue" will open to the public at the Sternberg Museum on Sunday, Feb. 25, and will continue through April 29.
Sue is the largest, most complete and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever found, and she is causing a stir as she travels across the nation. The 67-million-year-old fossil, which was named "Sue" for Sue Hendrickson, the woman who found her, was purchased for almost $9 million at auction in 1997 by a consortium that includes the Field Museum in Chicago, the Walt Disney Company and McDonald's Corporation. Two exhibits of Sue are touring the country, stopping almost exclusively in major cities.
Hays is by far the smallest city on the tour. The local bid for the exhibit was successful because of the international reputation of the historic Sternberg family of fossil collectors and because of the professional standing of the Sternberg Museum.
The two exhibits, both including life-size casts and many interactive displays, began touring the nation in June 2000. The eastern tour began in Boston, is now in St. Paul, MN, and will open in Hays Feb. 25. The western tour began in Hawaii, traveled to Los Angeles in November and makes its next scheduled stop this June in Indianapolis, IN. The Sternberg Museum will provide the only opportunity to see Sue in the middle of the country until this fall, when she visits Kansas City. No stops are planned in Colorado or Nebraska.
Sue was recovered in South Dakota in 1990. She was about 90 percent complete. Just four other "full" T.rexes have been discovered, and they are only about 60 percent complete. Sue Hendrickson, who will visit the Sternberg Museum for the grand opening, worked for a fossil collecting company, and her company became embroiled in a legal dispute with the landowner and the federal government, which led eventually to the public auction.
Tourists were allowed to watch some of the work while the fossil was being prepared at Disney's DinoLand U.S.A. in Florida. Greg Liggett, assistant director of the Sternberg Museum, said that an FHSU geology graduate, Bruce Schumacher, was one of the preparators. Schumacher also will visit the Sternberg Museum while Sue is here.
A full schedule of Sue events will be released in about a week.