In the pre-dawn hours of October 25, 2002, thousands of Ames (Iowa) Mine neighbors began lining up for a "Journey to the Center of the Earth." Inside the mine, local radio personalities Van Harden and Bonnie Lucas were broadcasting their "Van and Bonnie" morning show live from the Martin Marietta Materials site.
Martin Marietta District Sales Manager Jay Johnson had the idea for this event after hearing Van and Bonnie describe a previous show from the "top of the world." Once the duo accepted the invitation to use the mine, Des Moines District Production Manager Todd Clock coordinated efforts in preparation for the WHO 1040 broadcast. All mine personnel and most of the Des Moines-based Midwest Division office staff worked to make the big day a success.
On a cool and misty autumn morning, Van and Bonnie found themselves 250 feet below ground ready to broadcast their program. Hundreds of teachers, students, neighbors, customers, local elected officials and interested individuals were lined up for a chance to tour the underground mine. All participants were given safety training on the use of the equipment needed when embarking on their "Journey to the Center of the Earth."
After the show, Van and Bonnie visited the hospitality tent and began greeting mine guests. They went outside and greeted everyone with a handshake or a hug.
By mid-afternoon, more than 3,000 people had taken advantage of this occasion to tour the mine. "We had planned on maybe 1,500 people showing up, but we had twice that many, "Martin Marietta’s Midwest Division President Bob Meskimen said. "There were people there from across the state. Some from near the Minnesota border, some from southeast Iowa. There were license plates in the parking lot from all around."
For visitors, tables with geological information were set up with Martin Marietta personnel on hand to answer questions regarding the mine and the limestone production industry. Representatives from Iowa Limestone Producers, Iowa Concrete Paving Association, Associated General Contractors and Asphalt Paving Association of Iowa brought displays to assist and answer questions. Large mining and delivery equipment, furnished by vendors and customers, was parked outside for people to examine more closely.
The Ames Mine’s Plant Manager, Assistant Plant Manager and Foreman served as bus tour guides to take visitors through the mine. They explained the mine’s operation and equipment and answered many questions. Visitors entered another world in the mine traveling streets set up in grid-like fashion around huge stone pillars that support the earth above. Large haul trucks drove through the underground town hauling stone to the crusher. Guests also felt the constant mid-50s temperature and saw large fans that bring fresh air into the mine.
It truly was an informative, educational and fun experience to "Journey to the Center of the Earth" at the Ames Mine. Thousands of Martin Marietta neighbors were treated to a unique experience.