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Jurassic Quest
The Tyrannosaurus rex is one of the most familiar of the dinosaurs. It and three-quarters of all life on Earth disappeared with a “cataclysmic event” 66 million years ago. See this one at Jurassic Quest at the Del Mar Fairgrounds through Jan. 10. Photo by Jerry Ondash
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Hit the Road: Prehistoric creatures of Jurassic Quest inhabit fairgrounds

Dinosaurs with feathers? Giant sea snails? Toothless, airborne dinosaurs with hollow bones?

Who knew?

For one, the visitors around the country who have cruised the Jurassic Quest Drive Thru, a touring exhibit that features more than 70 life-size, animated prehistoric dinosaurs and undersea creatures, large and small. These same creatures will inhabit the Del Mar Fairgrounds through Jan. 10 (closed Jan. 4 and Jan. 5).

This is the eighth year for the touring exhibit, but the first time Jurassic Quest has been designed as an outdoor drive-through, explained “Dino Dustin” Baker, spokesperson for Jurassic Quest and all its creatures. 

“It was originally designed to be a walk-through exhibit indoors, but we had to pivot with the pandemic,” Baker said.

Jurassic Quest Fairgrounds
This dinosaur duo is one of more than 70 giant dinosaur re-creations that currently reside at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Normally an inside event, the exhibit was re-tooled for the outdoors to meet pandemic requirements. Photo by Jerry Ondash

Since it launched the national tour in mid-July, the Jurassic Quest experience has been visited by more than 250,000 cars and one million people, according to the press release. Once visitors are through the gate, they can tune in to a narration on their cell phones (signs will provide a prompt).

As they slowly drive by, the many ginormous creatures move their heads, tails, arms and gaping mouths, most filled with razor-sharp teeth in search of prey. The drive takes about an hour.

We arrived before 8 a.m. New Year’s Day and Baker had his hands full fulfilling media requests for interviews. Throughout the exhibit, workers were busy setting up the gift shop, replete with colorful inflatable dinosaurs of all types and sizes, while others were checking the various dinosaurs making sure all parts were working.

Jurassic Quest
With a name that means “big tooth,” megalodons lived between 3.6 million to 23 million years ago. Like all the animatronic dinosaurs that appear in the traveling exhibit Jurassic Quest, this one is life-size and was built in consultation with paleontologists. Photo by Jerry Ondash

Among them were Tyrannosaurus rex, Raptors, Triceratops, Spinosaurus and a whole bunch of other prehistoric creatures that you’ve probably never heard of or seen. There’s the toothless Quetzalcoatlus, a flying dinosaur similar to the pterodactyl but a whole bunch bigger. In fact, it’s the largest known flying animal ever. 

And there’s the liopleurodon, a carnivorous, marine reptile that grew as large as 82 feet long and weighed up to 3,700 pounds.

You’ll also meet the Qianzhousaurus, who started a new branch of the Tyrannosaur family. Because of his elongated snout, paleontologists in this country nicknamed him Pinocchio Rex.

According to Baker, whose job combines his love of acting and boyhood fascination with dinosaurs, all of the animatronic dinosaurs for Jurassic Quest are custom-made in consultation with paleontologists. 

“We work with paleontologists and always replace (older models) with the newest known dinosaurs,” he said.

Jurassic Quest
This Apatosaurus lived about 150 million years ago, ate only plants, and could be as long as 75 feet. Fossils have been found in Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Utah. Photo by E’Louise Ondash

Jurassic Quest is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.  $49/per car for up to eight people. A group photo is included in the price of admission. To purchase tickets and reserve a time, visit www.JurassicQuest.com.

All visitors must have their temperatures taken and wear masks until they pass through the entry gate. The audio tour is available in both English and Spanish, and special accommodations can be made for the hearing-impaired. A list of frequently asked questions can be found here.

For more photos and videos, visit www.facebook.com/elouise.ondash

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