Dinos come to life with Jurassic Quest at Dayton Convention Center

Jurrasic Quest is your chance to look a Tyrannosaurus Rex right in the eye

By Terri Gordon

“Our guests are captivated  by our exhibit. It truly is a one-of-a-kind experience. Staring up at a 50-foot-tall creature has a way of making guests respond with awe and wonder. However, both children and adults fall in love with our baby dinosaurs. They steal the show every time because of how charismatic and lifelike they are.”

The Jurassic Age is a period of Earth’s development that began about two hundred million years ago. It follows the massive extinction event at the end of the Triassic Age, and it ends with its own extinction event, about fifty million years after it begins. During this period, the single continent of Pangea separates into two different land masses, and the climate changes from dry to humid. There is no evidence of ice or glaciation anywhere, and the north and south poles are free, covered only by water. Conifers and ferns are abundant, and the animal kingdom, which before the extinction event had been fairly diverse, is now dominated by dinosaurs. Birds make their first appearances in the fossil record during the Jurassic Period, and the seas teem with marine reptiles, like ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs.

The sediment layer that contains the fossils of this era was first noted in the Jura Mountains of Europe—hence the name Jurassic. However, since then, the layer has been identified in many other places around the world.

Films like “Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic World” brought the creatures of the Jurassic Age into modern consciousness, sparking imaginations with an exploration of their habitats and natures, and speculating on what it would have been like to live amongst them. 

Now, Jurassic Quest: Out of Extinction takes people into the world of the dinosaurs that ruled the Jurassic Era, letting them get up close and personal with life sized animatronic dinosaurs. According to its website, Jurassic Quest has over 200 dinosaurs, and “each one was painstakingly replicated in every detail. Whether their prehistoric counterpart had skin that was scaly, had feathers or fur, Jurassic Quest has spared no expense in bringing this realism to life.”

Dustin Baker manages the Jurassic Quest Show as it tours. He makes sure the show always meets the company’s standard of excellence and travels with the professionals who set the show up. Baker also hires from the local population to complete his staff. “We have a crew size of 30 who construct and work the event side,” he says. We travel together and are responsible for much of the innovation to make our event better as time goes on. We hire anywhere between 25 to 40 locals to help us when we are open to the public. They typically help with our rides and activity stations.”

The event itself is designed as a walk through tour. While it’s titled “Jurassic,” visitors can also experience the Triassic Period, which preceded the Jurassic, and the Cretaceous Period, which followed the Jurassic, and can see for themselves how the environment changed – and how that change affected the dinosaur populations. It’s as real as it can get, and it’s pretty safe to say that humans have never gotten as close to living, breathing dinosaurs.

“Our dinosaur exhibit features over 100 lifesize dinosaurs,” says Baker. “Many of them are animatronic and move and [make] noises. These dinosaurs are set up in scenes that reflect the habitat that paleontologists believe the creatures lived in.

“When you go through our exhibit, it will feel like you are transported back into prehistoric times. It is a thrilling experience. There are two ways to experience the exhibit – and families often choose both. You can venture off and discover these dinosaurs on your own, or you can go on a very in depth exhibit tour with one of our dinosaur experts. You will get kick out the exhibit either way. There is so much to experience and see.”

The art of animatronics began in the studios of none other than Walt Disney as early as 1961. Of course, the robotics that make it possible have been greatly fine tuned. Computerization has made autonomy – where the subject can stand on its own, without operators – possible. It was a perfect medium for recreating the prehistoric creatures seen in the movie, “Jurassic Park”, and it is the perfect medium for the Jurassic Quest show. 

“The robotics in the dinosaurs are truly autonomous,” says Baker. “They just need power! They move all on their own and are activated with motion sensors. However, it does take the use of big lifts and forklifts to get them up. 

“They have to be assembled each week because many of our dinosaurs cannot fit in any 18-wheeler. The crew then sets the scene up around them. We become landscapers and literally put every tree branch on the trees set up in the exhibit – which sets the stage for these creatures to move and roar.”

Jurassic Quest strives to make its dinosaurs and their environments as authentic as possible. To that end, they work with paleontologists and other scientists for accurate depictions. “The production of our dinosaurs is informed by the paleontologists we work with,” says Baker. We update our dinosaurs periodically, based on new information given to us. 

“The reason we have our dinosaurs animatronic is to add another element to our exhibit that you cannot get in typical museums. We want guests to feel the intensity of how these creatures lived and moved on earth. It takes a day and a half for our crew to construct our exhibit into whatever arena we visit. Our staff and repair team keep up the maintenance on the dinosaurs to make sure they look as realistic as possible despite the wear and tear of travel.”

But, wait! The show’s not over! After folks have experienced the dinosaur exhibit, there are other attractions and activities. According to Baker, exhibit guests can take rides on the back of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, or the spiky Carnotaurus, or one of several different dinosaur species. There are also dinosaur themed inflatable mazes, slides, and the multitrack Dino Bungee Pull. Dino Science Stations educate and help kids make plaster fossils, while at the Dino Craft Tables, paint, crayons, feathers, and other art supplies allow children to create their own dino themed works of art. Visitors can participate in a “fossil dig” to understand how scientists uncover the great dinosaurs and remove them from the sediment layers where they are found, and the Dinosaur Museum offers people the chance to look at real dinosaur fossils dating back over 60 million years. Last, but not least, Jurassic Quest has a Dinosaur Petting Zoo where “little ones can pet dinosaurs that are more their size and take photos.” 

Periodically, throughout the event, puppeteers move through the crowd with true-to-life Baby Dinosaurs for people to interact with. They are a crowd favorite. “The interactive baby dinosaurs are always a big hit and another feature that can only be seen at Jurassic Quest events,” says Baker. “The Baby Dinosaurs love to see and play with our guests. They pose for pictures, and have been known to grab baseball caps right off of unsuspecting children’s heads or nibble at their shirts.”

Face painting, and “green screen” photography are also available for an additional fee.

Baker enjoys watching families share in the dinosaur experience, learning together, while spending quality time with each other. “This is truly is the most unique family event,” he says, “and a great way to make memories with your loved ones.”

Jurassic Quest: Out of Extinction will stop at the Dayton Convention Center from February 9 through the 11th. The Dayton Convention Center is located at 22 East 5th Street. The exhibit runs from 3:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. on Friday, and from 9:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Some activities may be outdoors, and socks are required for all inflatable “bounce houses.” Children under 2 years of age are free. Tickets range from $18 for seniors to $34 for VIP tickets. 

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Freelance writer Terri Gordon writes across a range of topics, including nature, health, and homes and gardens. She holds a masters in English and occasionally teaches college composition and literature. Her blog, WordWorks (http://tsgordon.blogspot.com) is a "bulletin board" of some of her favorite things.

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