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Plans in gear to have full-size cast of Sue the T-rex in Faith

By Andrea J. Cook
Rapid City, South Dakota (AP) 1-08

Sixty-seven million years after its death and 18 years after it was unearthed on the prairie near Faith, the world-famous Tyrannosaurus rex Sue is coming home - at least in spirit and polyresin.

The citizens of Faith have undertaken an effort almost as gigantic as the monstrous dinosaur to bring the Chicago Field Museum's traveling exhibition, showcasing a full-size cast of Sue's skeleton, to town next summer.

Sue is the largest, most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever unearthed. The skeleton stands 13 feet high and is 42 feet long.

Sue's sex is not known, but researchers have determined the dinosaur was 28 years old and weighed approximately 7 tons.

Backed by a $25,000 commitment from the city of Faith, the Faith Chamber of Commerce is spearheading a campaign to raise another $70,000 to fund the exhibition. The exhibit will be on display from May 10 through Sept. 1 in the Faith Community Center.

"We've a long road ahead," Chamber of Commerce executive director Ron Frame said.

Frame is coordinating fundraising efforts for the exhibition.

Planning for the exhibit started more than two years ago, after a Faith resident visited The Field Museum, Frame said.

Faith is by far the smallest community to host the exhibit since tours started in 2000. The traveling exhibit has appeared in 34 U.S. cities and seven international cities in Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand.

"She's world-known as an icon," Erica Zahnle, traveling exhibitions client manager for The Field Museum, said.

In addition to the cast of Sue, the exhibition includes nine interactive pods. Visitors can experience the sights and smells of Sue's prehistoric environment and try to manipulate Sue's stunted forearm.

"We're really excited to bring her to South Dakota, simply because of the history she has with the state," Zahnle said.

Sue was discovered Aug. 12, 1990, by fossil hunter Sue Hendrickson on a ranch on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation about 15 miles from Faith.

At the time, Hendrickson was working for the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, a private business specializing in fossil excavation and replication.

Sue's discovery, on tribal trust land, led to a lengthy custody battle that ended when the rancher sold the T. rex at public auction. With the support of corporate and private sponsors, The Field Museum bought Sue for $8.6 million, the most money ever paid for a fossil.

Faith's plans for Sue include a birthday celebration Aug. 10, during the annual Faith Stock Show & Rodeo, Frame said.

The community is working with the South Dakota Office of Tourism to promote Sue's return.

A $40,000 grant from the Governor's Million Dollar Challenge will assist with marketing efforts, including a promotional bus tour to area schools and communities this spring.

The bus will give schoolchildren and adults a glimpse of what they'll see when they visit the exhibit, according to Frame.

"We're hoping the bus tour will stimulate fundraising," Frame said.

Special incentive packages are available for corporate sponsors.

Faith will also rely upon admission fees to help cover expenses, he said.

"We've been told we need to prepare for up to 100,000 people over the course of the summer," Frame said.

Frame hopes to offer visitors tours to area fossil digs during the summer. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis has an excavation site outside of Faith.

People will be able to get a sense of where Sue was found, Frame said.

The state library's Dinostories exhibit will be on display in the community center.

There will also be opportunities for food vendors and local artisans, Frame said.

"It's a huge undertaking," Frame said. "It will be a busy time, but a fun time."

On the Net:
Faith Chamber of Commerce:

Field Museum site: