101217 Jurassic Gardens: Dinosaurs will walk the earth at Brookgreen
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Jurassic Gardens: Dinosaurs will walk the earth at Brookgreen

By Nikki Best
Coastal Observer

The Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods will collide at Brookgreen Gardens next week. The dinosaurs have arrived.

“It wasn’t originally a plan, but it became available,” executive director Page Kiniry said. She worked with the company that owns the dinosaurs before she came to Brookgreen Gardens. She said she could just see how well it would work and seized the opportunity. “I knew all the education connections that we can make with our family-friendly initiatives. It’s going to be awesome.”

The exhibit’s size is eye-catching.

Charles Zidar, a former archaeologist, and chief operating officer of LFC Exhibits, was on site to set up the display last week. Each dinosaur is true-to-size, but you can take that with a grain of salt, Zidar said. They’re definitely life-size, but the dinosaur depicted may be a juvenile. “There’s a lot of variability” in the show, he said. “These are near and dear to my heart.”

Zidar was responsible for the accurate creation of each dinosaur. “Because of my background we have a lot of the real, true science mixed in,” he said.

That means education, and education means a visit to Dinosaurs! wouldn’t be complete without stopping by the Children’s Discovery Room in the Lowcountry Center. “The other thing that makes us unique is we had custom-built, a life-size, juvenile, duck-billed dinosaur that you can dissect,” Zidar said. “You can pull out the bones, the organs and the kids can interact with this thing.”

“Volunteers will engage children in “dissecting” realistic-looking dinosaur body parts,” said education coordinator Stephanie Atkinson. Signage will help make the learning experience immersive. Alongside the dissection will be a chance to make a dinosaur-themed craft to take home.

Back at the outdoor exhibit, another chance for interactive learning is at the dig site. “Inside the exhibit will be a ‘Paleontologist Excavation Site’ that showcases how paleontologists uncover dinosaur specimens and allow children the chance to uncover fossils on their own,” Atkinson said. It’s also a chance to see how paleontologists live and work in the field.

The duck-billed dinosaur, or Hadrosaur, is what Zidar primarily excavated when he worked as an archaeologist in Wyoming. “They’re very common,” he said.

Since they’re what is often being uncovered at dig sites, Zidar wanted to use the dinosaur to make it more realistic for children. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be exciting. “We excavated a duck-bill’s femur with a T-Rex tooth embedded in it one time. That was cool.”

The exhibit will have a ticketed entrance at the Butterfly House, which closed Sunday, and will have a bamboo fence around it. “It’ll be surrounded, people will be able to see the tops of their heads,” Anna Lovell , Brookgreen’s marketing associate, said. The top of Tyrannosaurus Rex will glance the fence along with a few other giants, but on the ground, there are other surprises. “There are babies also, we’ve got baby dinosaurs.”

Eleven of the life-size dinosaurs are animatronic, while others in the exhibit are static. The Ankylosaur, Stegosaurus and Triceratops are a few of the ancient creatures that will move, and make sounds as if they were alive. And, yes, there are raptors. “It’s unbelievable to think about how many dinosaurs were around at the time,” Zidar said.

The exhibit is a chance for adults to visit old friends, though they may have new names. Brontosaurus is known as Apatosaurus. And it’s a chance to make new friends. A cousin of the Pachycephalosaurus, Dracorex hogwartsia is a newer discovery. It was found in South Dakota in 2004 and named two years later. The name translates to “dragon king of Hogwarts,” the same Hogwarts from the Harry Potter novel series. The prehistoric world created behind the fence may seem like a fantasy, but it’s real and it’s here all winter and spring.

Dinosaurs! is located at the Butterfly House, near the Lowcountry Zoo on the property. It will be on display from Oct. 21 to April 29. Tickets are $8 for adults, $4 for children 3-12, with 10 percent off for garden members. Children under 3 are free.

The Children’s Discovery Room is available with regular garden admission and is open from noon to 4:30 p.m.

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