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Jurassic Quest’s Nick Schaefer describes paleontology — the study of ancient life, from dinosaurs to prehistoric plants and more — as a gateway science.
Schaefer explained that often an interest in paleontology can lead to exploration of the other sciences too like engineering, astronomy and more, because they can all relate back to dinosaurs and ancient plants.
Schaefer is a fossil expert and Customer Experience Specialist for Jurassic Quest and he’s always amazed by the reactions of both children and adults as they experience the fascinating world of dinosaurs at Jurassic Quest shows.
Jurassic Quest is billed as North America’s largest and most realistic dinosaur event. Guests walk through the Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic Periods and experience for themselves what it was like to be among dinosaurs of all kinds. Special lighting, plant settings, sound effects and electronics add to the authenticity of the immersive experience.
More than 100 true-to-life-size animatronic dinosaurs are a part of the traveling show spans the nation and into Canada.
And all the artistry and inspiration for these shows begins and ends in Conroe and South Montgomery County. The home office is in Conroe and several warehouses are in South Montgomery County.
The concept was launched by Dan and Leticia Arnold of Spring in 2013 following a lively discussion about dinosaurs at the dinner table.
Dan Arnold had a background marketing and touring consumer electronics shows. They built the show slowly at first and then the idea took off.
A second touring show was added in June 2016. In 2019, the show was acquired by the company L2. Today, son Brandon Arnold, is the Senior Director of Operations.
In collaboration with leading paleontologists, each dinosaur has been replicated in every detail.
Whether their prehistoric counterpart had skin that was scaly, had feathers or fur, Jurassic Quest has spared no expense in bringing the dinosaurs to life. Jurassic Quest exhibits also allow future paleontologists to dig up fossils, ride their favorite life-sized dinosaur, enjoy walking dinosaur and baby dinosaur shows, and enjoy a dinosaur themed play land in addition to face painting, crafts and much more.
According to Kim Stoilis, director of communications and outreach for Jurassic Quest, a team of 40 travels with the show and 20 additional workers are hired in each city.
Sixteen 18-wheeler trucks “migrate” the dinosaurs from the warehouses in South Montgomery County to show cities across the national and into Canada.
She said Conroe is a good base because of the ample space here and the welcoming Texas hospitality. They also benefit from the close proximity to the Port of Houston for international links.
“We feel rejuvenated when we return to Texas,” she said. “Then we take that spirit to the other cities.”
Currently staff is preparing for a show in Shreveport. Their models are in the “repair shop” warehouse in South Montgomery County getting a “check up” before heading back out on the road.
At the heart of their experience is accuracy and education.
As a part of his duties, Schaefer makes sure the models look as good as possible and are as accurate as possible.
“New things are constantly being learned,” Schaefer said of the field of paleontology.
For example, some models now have feathers or fur as new research comes out on that particular dinosaur. Or he pointed out, a particular dinosaurs hands did not always look the way they look now. They’ve been updated over time to make sure they look as accurate as possible.
“The love is in the details,” said Stoilis. “You will only see dinosaurs the way that we understand that they looked or the size that they might have been based on science.”
For example, Velociraptors portrayed as larger in movies are only roughly the size of a turkey, said Schaefer.
In addition to the shows, they also do hospital visits and meet and greets. During the pandemic they were able to carry out some of these visits virtually. The also partnered with the Ryan Seacrest Foundation to bring exclusive dinosaur-themed experiences to children at pediatric hospitals throughout the country.
The dinosaur experts are always taken aback about kids knowledge of dinosaurs.
Stoilis said even the youngest among them know the T-Rex.
“I’m so amazed and enamored by how smart kids art,” she said. “We’re teaching them but they’re teaching us too. The kids are so fun and so smart.”
While the pandemic had a devastating impact on the entertainment industry, Jurassic Quest made a pivot and was able to re-imagine their experience into a drive-thru event in some cities.
“During this unprecedented time, we were able to ramp up and hire more people,” Stoilis said.
The drive-thru show features over 70 life-like dinosaurs including the very popular T. Rex, Spinosaurus and Triceratops. Jurassic Quest’s herd of animatronic dinos are displayed in realistic scenes that allow guests to experience them roaring and moving from their own vehicles as they drive their way through the tour.
A drive-thru show opened on Sept. 10 in Midland and will continue there through Sept. 19.
They’ve also returned to indoor shows having held shows recently in Houston, Beaumont, Corpus Christi and New Orleans.
The Shreveport show is set for Sept. 17-19 and will feature the premiere of some new models and assets.
Other upcoming shows are Sept. 10-12 in Tulsa, Sept. 24 through Oct. 3 in San Antonio and Sept. 24-26 in Birmingham, Alabama.
For a complete schedule of upcoming shows, visit https://www.jurassicquest.com/upcoming-events.
For more about Jurassic Quest, visit https://www.jurassicquest.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/jurassicquest.
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