A pack of dinosaurs, hitching a ride in the back of four semitrucks, rumbled into town Monday.
The high-tech robotic creatures, along with dinosaur fossils and skeletons, will take refuge in their own Jurassic Park-like home at the Bonner Mall for three months.
The popular exhibit, called The Story of Egg Mountain, is from the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Mont. The exhibit costs about $130,000 to set up and is booked at museums across the country until 1998.
Sandpoint managed to land the life-sized creatures and now boasts the first showing in the Pacific Northwest.
“We were very fortunate. This is an exhibit no dinosaur lover should miss,” said Diane Williams, the Bonner Mall marketing director. “It’s got something for everyone, new research, robotic dinosaurs, real bones, the works.”
Williams contacted the museum in 1996, but the show was booked for two years. A cancellation and some generous donations by Bonner Mall merchants helped secure the exhibit in Sandpoint.
“The merchants felt it was a great opportunity and didn’t want to let it pass by,” said Williams, who already has 1,700 school children lined up to see the dinosaurs. She wouldn’t say what the exhibit cost to bring here, but just trucking the dinosaur parts to Sandpoint cost $14,000.
The show won’t be back in the Northwest until an appearance in Seattle in 1999. The exhibit was most recently in Chicago and will go to Milwaukee from Sandpoint.
“This is the first time we have done a mall. We are usually at museums,” said Pat Leiggi, assistant head of research and collections at the Museum of the Rockies. “We hope the people of North Idaho and the surrounding areas come see it and enjoy it.”
The dinosaur exhibit was the second most popular show at the Field Museum in Chicago. It was surpassed only by a King Tut display, Leiggi said.
The show features several moving, robotic dinosaurs built by a Japanese company, and full-sized fossil skeletons. The mall, with 12-foot-high ceilings and 5,000-square-feet of vacant space, was one of the few place the exhibit would fit. Local landscapers and lighting technicians will turn the space into mini-Jurassic Park for the display.
The main attraction is the Maiasaura (pronounced may-a-sora), also called the “good mother lizard.” The dinosaur was discovered near Choteau, Mont. along with a the first clutch of dinosaur eggs found in North America.
Dr. John Horner, a paleontologist and scientific adviser for the Jurassic Park movie, made the discovery which changed some theories about dinosaurs.
Horner concluded some dinosaurs actually lived in huge colonies and nurtured their young in nests. Paleontologist had thought dinosaurs where loners, who left their young to fend for themselves when they hatched.
“What’s unique about this exhibit is it’s a snapshot in time of dinosaur life and behavior,” Leiggi said.
The exhibit opens Nov. 8 and runs through Feb. 8. Because of the size and expense of the display, an admission fee ranging from $2 to $3 will be charged.
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