Dinosaurs take over downtown

Jurassic Quest thrills crowds at RBC Convention Centre


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Under the dimmed lights of the RBC Convention Centre, Fraternal twins Mason and Jonah McDowell, 5, stand wide-eyed and jittering beside their best friend, Wyatt McLeod, 6.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/04/2022 (407 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Under the dimmed lights of the RBC Convention Centre, Fraternal twins Mason and Jonah McDowell, 5, stand wide-eyed and jittering beside their best friend, Wyatt McLeod, 6.

The boys are here to meet Safari Sarah, a dinosaur trainer who works with Jurassic Quest.

The trio bounce on the balls of their feet as they glance at Safari Sarah and then back at one another with wide, gap-toothed grins.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS From left, Wyatt Mcleod, Mason and Jonah McDowell meet a dinosaur character as parents Cory Mcleod, Kevin McDowell and Lisa Mcleod look on.

In her arms, Sarah carries a baby camarasaurus.

She has swaddled the small dinosaur in a white baby blanket, concealing her hands which — unknown to the boys —operate the dinosaur’s mouth. She leans in, and the puppet comes to life, planting kisses on their cheeks.

The children burst into giggles.

Melissa McDowell and Lisa McLeod laugh along, snapping photos of the encounter. The mothers are happy to see their children at play, they say.

For the second time since 2019, the travelling, animatronic dinosaur exhibit is in town and has transformed the convention centre into a Jurassic wonderland for kids such as Mason, Jonah, and Wyatt.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Kolton Patterson pops his out of a dinosaur head for a photograph at Jurassic Quest at the Convention Centre on Friday.

The show features herds of life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, demonstrations, real dinosaur bones, games, inflatables and rides.

“It’s just a relief, finally to be back to normal and be able to have them experience kid things and not have to worry. And not have to feel like they are missing out on just living life,” McDowell says.

McLeod booked tickets to see the exhibit in March but held off from telling the boys.

Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, it would have been devastating to have to cancel, she says.

When McLeod and McDowell surprised them Friday morning with news that they would see the dinosaurs, McDowell says they were beyond excited.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Fitzwilliam Butler rides a dinosaur.

“We kept saying, ‘When are we going to be there? When are we going to be there?’” Jonah says, describing the moment he and his twin brother found out.

The three boys love dinosaurs and have spent many hours watching dinosaur trainers such as Safari Sarah on the Jurassic Quest YouTube channel, Mason adds.

Safari Sarah, whose real name is Sarah Menard, is used to being somewhat of a celebrity at the exhibit.

Jurassic Quest is wildly popular with children, she says, gesturing to the people around her.

Throughout the convention centre, the chorus of squeals and laughter is endless.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Dezhere Policarpio and Serge Uwimana play with their daughter as she pops her head out of a dinosaur egg.

Kids clamber over one another to ride on large, rocking dinosaurs or take pictures in the open jaws of T-rex statues.

Some children cling to their parents’ hands and drag them between displays, while other perch on their shoulders and crane their necks to see over the crowds.

Almost everyone is smiling.

Winnipeg has quickly become one of the organization’s favourite stops because the children here are so passionate about dinosaurs, Menard says.

“The kids here really know their stuff,” she says. “They know the dinosaurs and how to pronounce them. I am always surprised.”

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS People watch the JoJo Raptor show.

Jurassic Quest goes out of its way to make its dinosaurs as real as possible. Many of the creatures’ eyes blink and their chests expand as if they are breathing, she says.

The organization hires paleontologists to ensure they are anatomically correct, so having such an educated audience is encouraging for staff, Menard says.

The troupe rolled into town Wednesday as a spring snowstorm battered the southern part of the province.

“We were worried about that. We were also worried about if people would be able to come out to the show,” she said. “We just kept a really close eye on it, and it ended up working out fine.

Fortunately, the weather did not slow down the numerous semi-trucks and trailers that carry the crew and cargo. They arrived without incident and workers spent most of Wednesday and Thursday setting up, Menard says.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS People watch the JoJo Raptor show.

Jurassic Quest spends 46 weeks on tour between Canada and the U.S.

This year, the Canadian tour is bigger than ever, with organizers adding a new ancient aquatics section, more inflatables and extra dinosaurs for children to ride, Menard said.

The exhibit opened Friday at 9 a.m. and will stick around until Sunday at 6 p.m. before moving to Edmonton.

Tickets for today are nearly sold out, with only a few remaining.


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