RIDGEFIELD — “Hello, there,” bellowed dino trainer Joe Johnson as I walked into the Clark County Event Center on Saturday morning.
“Welcome to Jurassic Quest,” he continued, introducing his baby Tyrannosaurus rex to the crowd of giggling children around me.
Patrons at the weekend’s Jurassic Quest event saw not just one of these prehistoric beings but an entire room of life-size, animatronic dinosaurs.
Passing under the arch, I was immediately greeted by a snarling, toothy Spinosaurus. The giant dino towering above was the biggest creature on display at Jurassic Quest, though certainly not the only one of size. Enormous beings were in no short supply at the weekend show, from the Giganotosaurus to the 55-foot-long Megalodon.
Children stared up at the giant beasts uttering, “Whoa,” while parents snapped photos of their offsprings’ joy.
As I walked past each chronologically ordered display, I was given a glimpse into sites that may have been seen ages ago: an Allosaurus displaying its terrifying teeth and a couple of Tyrannosaurus rexes chowing down on a dinner made of Triceratops.
“This is very scientifically accurate,” said Elisa Lepere, another dino trainer at the event and my guide for the morning. “T. rex would hunt Triceratops, but Triceratops have really good horns to defend themselves.”
Lepere next led me into the fossil area, complete with real fossils, along with replicas of some famous fossil finds.
“What’s cool is that people come in, they see the dinosaurs and then they come here and see the fossils of the dinosaurs,” Lepere said.
After perusing the fossils, we ambled over to the ancient underwater exhibit to see the giant sea creatures.
“We work with scientists and paleontologists and archaeologists, all that to make sure that we’re scientifically accurate, life-size and not only just fun but educational,” Lepere said.
Each display has signs giving the patrons more information on the historic creatures. And each sign has a QR code that can take folks even deeper into the topic if they so desire.
“We really want to focus on education,” said Lepere.
Dino trainers around the exhibits are also available to answer questions, and a Dino 411 phone line gives folks the chance to chat with experts who can respond to text questions about the dinosaurs.
Brittney Smiley came from Washington County to Jurassic Quest, driven by her 3-year-old son’s love of dinosaurs. Seeing the life-size dinos was his favorite part of the show.
“We watch ‘Jurassic Park’ on a regular basis,” she laughed. “Seeing his excitement is really exciting for me.”
Patrick Hymel’s 2½-year-old son loves dinosaurs, too. So the Portlanders made the trek across the river to check out the exhibit. Their favorite: the big Spinosaurus.
Past the underwater exhibit, event attendees walk into Jurassic Quest’s fun zone, complete with dinosaur rides, bouncy houses, jeep driving, a fossil dig and a roaming Utah Raptor named Jo Jo who loves to check out the children gathered for the Raptor Training Experience.
For Oregonian Barbara Hartman and her young cousins, it was the bouncy houses that were the most fun.
“I love watching them,” she said with a smile.
The event has already sold 3,000 advance tickets for time slots over the weekend. Tickets are still sold at the door, though Lepere recommends buying them online to ensure that a time slot isn’t sold out. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
“This weekend has been a really, really good hit,” said Lepere. “We’re super happy.”