MARTINSVILLE – A two-day dinosaur extravaganza is set to descend upon the Virginia Museum of Natural History on Friday and Saturday, featuring life-size cast skeletons of some of the most iconic creatures of the Mesozoic Era, a large variety of dinosaur fossils, renowned paleontologists, and dino-themed activities, crafts and concessions. "If you have any curiosity in dinosaurs at all, Dino Festival should be marked on your calendar," said Ray Vodden, chief preparator at the museum. "Visitors to the museum will have the chance to marvel over life-size cast skeletons of iconic dinosaurs, such as Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Acrocanthosaurusand Allosaurus. We'll also be debuting the life-size cast skeleton of Platecarpus tympaniticus, a 17 foot long cast skeleton of a mosasaur that lived during the age of dinosaurs. Platecarpus tympaniticus was a giant sea creature that will look quite familiar to anyone who has seen either of the Jurassic World movies."
The museum's chief preparator, Vodden and his team have spent months preparing new displays for this year's event.
In addition to Platecarpus tympaniticus, the team will debut the cast skulls of dinosaurs, such as Dromaeosaurus, Albertosaurus and Edmontosaurus, as well as Dunkleosteus, an armored fish from a group of fish called placoderms that lived approximately 360 to 380 million years ago.
"The variety of life on our planet during the Mesozoic was rich and diverse," said Vodden. "The highlight of this festival will always be the dinosaurs, but we also want to introduce visitors to some of the marine life that ruled Earth's waters during this time in our planet's history and even earlier."
Life-size cast skeletons and skulls that will be on display at the festival include: Platecarpus tympaniticus A 17-foot long cast skeleton of a massive sea serpent or reptile that lived 81 to 84 million years ago during the Cretaceous period. This animal once swam in waters that covered what is now the central United States. Platecarpus is a species of mosasaur; if you've seen either of the Jurassic World movies, this skeleton will definitely look familiar!
Triceratops A large, plant-eating dinosaur distinguishable by its large frill and three horns that lived during the Late Cretaceous period, from approximately 68 to 66 million years ago
Stegosaurus A large, plant-eating dinosaur distinguishable by two rows of bony plates on its back. It lived during the Late Jurassic period, from approximately 155 to 150 million years ago
Acrocanthosaurus A massive, carnivorous theropod dinosaur that existed in what is now North America during the Early Cretaceous period, from approximately 125 million to 100 million years ago
Allosaurus A large, carnivorous theropod dinosaur of the Late Jurassic period, from approximately 155 to 150 million years ago
Dromaeosaurus (skull) A medium-sized carnivore that lived in what is now the western United States and Alberta, Canada during the Late Cretaceous from approximately 77 to 74 million years ago Albertosaurus (skull) A genus of tyrannosaurid theropod dinosaurs that lived in western North America during the Late Cretaceous Period, from approximately 70 million years ago
Edmontosaurus (skull) A genus of duck-billed dinosaur that lived in western North America during the Cretaceous Period approximately 73 to 66 million years ago.
Dunkleosteus (skull) An armored fish from a group of fish called placoderms that lived approximately 360 to 380 million years ago.
In addition to the cast displays, Dino Festival will feature a large variety of actual dinosaur fossils, including the only fossil evidence that Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops engaged in battle.
"The museum is home to the only known fossil evidence that Triceratops fought with Tyrannosaurus rex and lived to see another day," said Vodden. "The Triceratops brow horn and part of the frill have bite marks that could only have been made by a Tyrannosaurus rex. X-rays of the fossil show much denser bone where the animal was bitten, which is a sign of healing and disproves the notion that T. rex may have only been a scavenger."
An abundance of activities will be available for visitors to participate in during the festival, with face painting, dino art, balloon animals, games and crafts taking place throughout the event.
Costumed dinosaurs will also roam about the museum.
"Dino Festival is not just a spectacle, but an interactive event," said Ben Williams, science administrator at VMNH and festival manager. "We want every visitor to be mesmerized by the life-size dinosaur skeletons and prehistoric fossils, but we also want to give them opportunities for fun, engaging, hands-on experiences that they won't soon forget."
Displays and activities will be provided by the Virginia Museum of Natural History, National Museum of Natural History, Schiele Museum, Appalachian State University, University of Lynchburg, North Carolina Fossil Club, and Danville Science Center.
"Being able to bring in other institutions to this festival allows visitors to see new and exciting displays and participate in unique activities that you would be hard pressed to find all in one place anywhere else," said Williams.
The museum's cafe and store will be open throughout the event, featuring dino-themed food, drinks and souvenirs.
Dino Festival takes place Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27 from 9 AM to 4 PM.
Displays and activities will remain the same each day.
Visitors to the first day of the festival will be allowed to re-enter on the second day at no additional charge.
Admission is $7 per adult and $5 for ages 3-18.
Admission is free for children under 3, museum members, and members of museums and science centers that participate in the ASTC Passport program. The museum also participates in the "Museums for All" initiative, offering discounted admission to low-income families.
Visitors who present an EBT card and accompanying ID at the museum's box office will receive reduced admission rates of $2 per adult and $1 for ages 3-18.
For more information about Dino Festival and all other museum festivals, visit www.vmnh.net.