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Crowds see dinosaurs come to life at VMNH's 'Dino Day'
Hailee Moore-Donley, 3, of Collinsville, seems spellbound by the animated T. rex dinosaur as it moves and roars at the Virginia Museum of Natural Historyâ€™s Dino Day event Saturday. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Dinosaurs had a second chance at life Saturday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History when children of all ages got the chance to watch and create moving dinosaurs.
The occasion was Dino Day, when families came see the museum's new dinosaur exhibit, "Messages from the Mesozoic"�; make crafts; and play games about dinosaurs.
Carolyn Seay, special events manager at the museum, said shortly before the event ended at 4 p.m., more than 700 visitors had been counted.
Immediately upon entering the museum, small children flocked to two stars of the exhibit. One has become a well-known staple of Martinsville's museum. She is affectionately known to staff and students as "Cera," a Triceratops which is wired to move and stomp her feet from atop her leaf-covered pedestal.
Beside her a newcomer - a Tyrannosaurus rex who towered over Cera - was causing quite a stir.
"The kids adore them," Seay said of the ferocious couple.
The T. rex could move his arms and lower his huge head down to the eye level of most small onlookers. He also roared, which only added to his appeal.
"The T. rex was my favorite part," exclaimed Tristan Shelton, 8, of Stanleytown. Tristan said he liked the moving T. rex because it was his favorite type of dinosaur.
"I like the T. rex because it was a carnivore," he explained.
Shelton said he is an omnivore, or an animal who eats meat and plants. He also explained that some animals are herbivores, eating only plants.
His grandmother, Carol Shelton, said Tristan adores the dinosaur exhibits at the museum. This year she decided to bring some more children, including his cousin Olivia Allen, 6, of Fieldale.
Carol Shelton said Tristan had guided the other children around the exhibits, explaining which were herbivores and carnivores to them. Olivia, however, was less interested in what the dinosaurs ate and more interested in where they went.
"My favorite part of Dino Day was figuring out how they got extinct," she said, adding that apparently, a large meteor had wiped them out, leaving behind only footprints and bones.
While the children enjoyed the dinosaur exhibits upstairs, they could be more hands-on with the crafts.
Shelton created a T. rex puppet downstairs in the craft and game area of Dino Day. After coloring in cut-out pieces of T. rex head, arms, legs, tail and body, volunteers helped children assemble them with string and straws. The children could use their creation as a puppet or wear it around their neck as a dino-necklace.
Volunteer Jo Carter of Collinsville handed out dino parts to color and helped the children create the puppets. Carter is a retired teacher and part-time educator at the museum.
"They like it because they can create a dinosaur and make it their own. Their creativity really comes out," she said.
Caitlyn Cannaday, 4, of Bassett, colored pieces of a dinosaur in red, pink, purple and blue. As Carter helped Caitlyn tape the different body parts together to make the puppet, she asked the child what the T. rex was going to use its little arms for. Perhaps it would use them for climbing, Carter suggested.
"No," replied Caitlyn, "but it will be making big footprints."
Once her puppet had been completed and looked sufficiently colorful and bright, Caitlyn chose a name and a gender for her T. rex - "Mulan, the lady dinosaur," she decided.
After completing T. rex puppets and viewing the large dinosaurs on display upstairs, the remaining children and parents piled into a room for story time. During a story about dinosaurs who danced under the moonlight, the audience got a chance to make their own noise with drums, shakers and triangles.