Win­ter of the Di­nosaurs

FES­TI­VAL IS HOL­I­DAY FUN FOR A GOOD CAUSE

The Day - Sound & Country - - A Cretaceous Christmas - By KA­T­RINA T. GATH­ERS Day Staff Writer

IIn ele­men­tary school, my class­mates and I per­formed “The Twelve Days of Christ­mas” be­fore a packed au­di­ence of par­ents, sib­lings and friends. I was part of the fifth day, so when my turn came I chimed in: “FIVE GOLDEN RINGS!”

With the hol­i­days quickly ap­proach­ing, the folks at The Di­nosaur Place, an in­ter­ac­tive fa­cil­ity in Montville, are putting a spin on this hol­i­day clas­sic, while at the same time host­ing an event that raises money for a lo­cal school.

Three years ago, The Di­nosaur Place hosted “Decked Out Di­nos,” a fes­ti­val that ran along a mile of trails be­hind the Route 85 build­ing. Roughly 25 of the ar­chaic crea­tures were dressed up in their hol­i­day best for nearly a month, and the pro­ceeds from en­trance fees were do­nated to the Con­necti­cut Chil­dren’s Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

Corinna Fer­gu­son, The Di­nosaur Place’s di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing, says “peo­ple got a kick out of it” but the event could have been more suc­cess­ful if Mother Na­ture had co­op­er­ated.

“The weather was hor­rific. We had to shut down half the days that we had planned be­ing open,” says Fer­gu­son, of the event sched­uled on week­ends be­tween Thanks­giv­ing and NewYear’s. “So we de­cided, ‘What can we do to hold the event and not deal with the weather?’ We de­cided to bring it in­doors.”

This year, or­ga­niz­ers are putting their unique spin on “The Twelve Days of Christ­mas.” In­stead of “Nine Ladies Danc­ing” and “Four Tur­tle Doves,” each day is some­how linked to the di­nosaur age.

“We have ‘A long­neck eat­ing a palm tree’ for the first day,” ex­plains Fer­gu­son, “and ‘Three rap­tors rap­ping.’”

The Di­nosaur Place has also re­newed its re­la­tion­ship with­Water­ford Coun­try School, a pri­vate agency that pro­vides pro­grams and ser­vices to chil­dren and fam­i­lies in the re­gion.

Last year, or­ga­niz­ers col­lected toys for Big Broth­ers/Big Sis­ters but were un­able to dis­trib­ute them be­cause no one from the or­ga­ni­za­tion could pick them up. In ad­di­tion, The Di­nosaur Place didn’t have enough staff to make a de­liv­ery. So fa­cil­ity vol­un­teers con­tact­edWater­ford Coun­try School and the school gladly ac­cepted the do­na­tion.

“They have been so nice to us,” says David Moore­head, the school’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. “It’s such an in­cred­i­ble place. There’s nowhere else like it, and we are for­tu­nate to have such a re­source here in south­east­ern Con­necti­cut.”

With the amount of cut­backs in fund­ing that lo­cal agen­cies are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing at the hands of the state, there is al­ways a need at the school that can be ad­dressed with the help of do­na­tions, Moore­head says. The school has an on­go­ing fundraiser to sup­port construction of the Otto Gra­ham Gym­na­sium, an ac­tiv­ity cen­ter that or­ga­niz­ers are hop­ing to break ground on in the spring. The school also seeks fund­ing to pro­vide gen­eral ac­tiv­i­ties for the 150 chil­dren it sup­ports.

“The cen­ter,” ex­plains Moore­head, “will pro­vide ac­tiv­i­ties and recre­ation, and be the seat for ed­u­ca­tion.”

For less than five dol­lars, vis­i­tors can tour the ex­hibits at The Di­nosaur Place, cre­ate crafts, have a pic­ture taken with Santa Claus and en­joy a treat. Fer­gu­son says a tour of the ex­hibits can take any­where from 30 min­utes to an hour.

“Re­ally young kids won’t get the hu­mor, but it’s some­thing fun that adults can en­joy too,” she says. “We hope that a lot of peo­ple come so that we can give them a re­ally big check.”

Stu­dents and staff atWater­ford Coun­try School fre­quent The Di­nosaur Place and Na­ture’s Art, which pro­vides ex­hibits, games and ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren ages 3 and up.

“They are very car­ing peo­ple, who are imag­i­na­tive and creative,” he says.

CRE­ATIV­ITY ABOUNDS AT THE DI­NOSAUR PLACE AS THE

PRE­HIS­TORIC CREA­TURES AMUSE ADULTS AND KIDS.

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