From the World of Parks and Recreation
By Doug Comer
I know that we have brought up our dinosaur exhibit many times during this part of the season and I cannot stress the importance of how the event gives us an opportunity to educate kids who visit on field days and provide a free activity for families on our nights and weekends.
What we have not explained is how we get this off the ground. I am hoping this week’s piece will tell the story of the time and effort needed for its success.
Saturday Night Live goes through a grueling weekly schedule in order to open the show at 11:35 P.M. on Saturdays as the writers, actors, guests and all people behind the scenes (set designers, camera people, producers, etc.) go through a difficult process to ensure a great show for its viewers.
On our end, it is not quite as compact of a week to prepare as compared to SNL, but the stress and time constraints does cause some sweat on our brows. However, the end result is worth all the trouble as Director Mike Book explains.
“This is not an exhibit where we can put something together in a few days and present a program like this. We are talking dinosaurs pretty much all year round and just like people building a foundation for a year-long exhibit, there are sets to be made and many, many other things that need to be coordinated before the doors opens. And there are some levels of stress that goes along with it, but the end result is well worth it.”
To start, staff gets together to brainstorm what we want the theme to be for the year. And with this being the fourth year, we decided to bring in some of the pieces that were huge successes from our previous exhibits. And once we trim those suggestions down to a few, we need to plan and coordinate on having the pieces delivered to our facility, setting up the fossils and then fact-finding information for the visitors to read.
“There is a little time and effort in erecting these fossils,” said Book. “Our staff works as laborers for our local Paleontologists from Prehistoric Planet and the company we rent pieces. It is a tedious process and they are similar to a 3-D puzzle, however, the only difference is the value of the items that are put together.”
During construction, staff normally hums the song about the bones and what they are connected to and the process is pretty much like that. Starting with the leg bones and working the way to the pelvis and so on and so on, until you have a monstrosity like our Stegodon, which has 9 foot long tusks and towers almost 20 feet tall at the head. Cost for the Stegodon, which is a replica fossil made from molds casted from the original, can range to upwards of $40,000. Luckily, we just rent these for the period.
“We own some of the fossils and then we rent some like the Stegodon,” said Book. “Storage space and the amounts are concerns with the big pieces we have. We do try to purchase something each year knowing we can use it yearly. If it was not for the Vital Service Levy, we could not have events like this.”
In speaking with Harrison County Commissioners, President Ron Watson has been a supporter of our program and knows the advantages it has on the community.
“We are proud of the success of our Parks and Recreation department and its involvement with the enrichment programs for the kids in the county,” said Watson. “To open the doors for family days and weekends is an added bonus to what they do. The price is free for all events, which is another key attribute to having a Levy for the county. Where else can you go see museum pieces like these and not be charged admission?”
And once the plans are completed on paper, the staff is responsible for gathering information, putting together displays and giving valuable input as to the final process of getting the place ready for show. The week prior is the most consuming as the deadline before the first class is near and the levels of stress rises a touch.
“What some people do not realize is we have this event pre-booked back in August and September when we send out the flyers to the schools,” said Book. “And that opening day comes a lot quicker than you think. But, our staff has done a great job with tasks and doing it with minimal supervision. We are extremely happy with the final draft and those who visit will be surprised with the quality of the exhibit.”