Salem families were able to travel back to the pre-historic age last weekend when, courtesy of the Jurassic Wonder Drive-Thru, dinosaurs invaded the city.
Ted Hill, President and owner of Theodore Productions, is responsible for operating Jurassic Wonder, a nationwide animatronic show where “dinosaurs come alive right before your eyes.” After researching various facilities throughout Southwest Virginia to host the event, the decision was ultimately made that the Salem Civic Center parking lot made the most sense.
Approximately 20 life-sized animal replicas of mammals and dinosaurs were displayed in the lot on both Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The price of admission per car was $12.00.
Usually indoors, the drive-thru event was modified to meet the social distancing guidelines. From the convenience of their vehicles, families were able to take pictures and get a better understanding of dinosaurs. When Roanoke County native Robyn Henson pulled into the parking lot on Saturday with her children, she says their enthusiasm could not be contained.
“The only time my children, ages eight and five, have ever seen dinosaurs have been on television. Seeing their curiosity shine made my heart smile. I was asked over 20 questions, but I didn’t mind at all,” Henson said. “When we got home, we all watched a documentary to learn even more information.”
Some dinosaurs date back to 230 million years ago. The Eoraptor, according to
paleontologists, represents the beginning of the Age of Dinosaurs. Tyrannosaurus, Carnotaurus, Triceratops and Pteranodon were also among the moving, live dinosaurs on display last weekend.
“Today’s birds evolved from dinosaurs, which makes them every bit as much of a dinosaur as T. rex or Triceratops,” said paleontologist Steve Brusatte, author of the book, The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs. “A good analogy is bats. Bats are a weird type of mammal that developed wings and the ability to fly. Birds are a weird type of dinosaur that did the same thing.”
A common misconception people have about dinosaurs, said Hill, is there was definitely a mass extinction event 65 million years ago (probably related to a giant asteroid that smashed into Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula), and it did spell the end for most dinosaur species, but not all.
“Being able to sit and watch how much fun kids have getting up close to something that they normally see in the movies is a very enjoyable experience,” he said. “I’m thrilled that families got to have a COVID-safe family experience.”