News / Arts & Entertainment

American Roadside Attraction 'Dinosaur Land' Lures Visitors

American Roadside Attraction 'Dinosaur Land' Lures Visitorsi
X
July 08, 2014 11:08 PM
A big part of the American landscape of the middle 20th century was the roadside attraction - small zoos, amusement parks or quirky museums along the highways families traveled on their way to vacation destinations. Most of those attractions are gone, but one in Virginia, a couple of hours from Washington, called Dinosaur Land, is still going strong.
Deborah Block

A big part of the American landscape of the middle 20th century was the roadside attraction - small zoos, amusement parks or quirky museums along the highways families traveled on their way to vacation destinations. Most of those attractions are gone, but one in Virginia, a couple of hours from Washington, called Dinosaur Land, is still going strong.  

On a sunny afternoon, kids are enjoying looking at the dozens of dinosaurs, large and small, that are posed around the park. Adults who came here as youngsters now bring their own children. As he watched his daughter marvel at the creature towering over her, Brian Beck recalled his childhood impressions of the dinosaurs.

“They were larger than life. I’ve grown up loving dinosaurs because of this place,” he said.

A family business

Dinosaur Land began 51 years ago as a roadside gift shop. Joseph Geraci displayed a huge wooly mammoth outside as a gimmick to lure in customers driving past.  Then he added prehistoric beasts next to the shop and gave it the name it has today. When Geraci passed away in 1987, family members, including his daughter Joann Leight, took over the business.

Leight is proud that four generations have worked at the park, including her grandson John, who grew up with Dinosaur Land, and says it hasn't changed much.
 
“We try to keep the old America feel around here. It’s not meant to be a museum.  We’re meant to be a roadside attraction.  We like for people to just stop by,” he explained.

That's what Hannah Pascucci did. She writes a travel blog about the state of Virginia.

“It’s run down, but still very popular,” she observed. “This is kind of in the middle of nowhere.”

Over the years, the park has added newer dinosaurs that look more realistic. Each one is created on a wooden frame, surrounded by wire and fiberglass, and then painted.

Joann Leight said, “Even though they don’t move, they’re not animated, the kids are still really fascinated with them because they are life size.”
 
World-class gift shop

Dinosaur Land’s gift shop was recently named one of the 10 best places to buy souvenirs in the United States. Its shelves are crowded with everything from animal figurines to four-million-year-old ocean fossils.  And of course, lots of dinosaurs, including popular small plastic toys.

“The movement of their mouth gives them a more realistic feel,” John Leight said as he demonstrated the action. “Their scales are uniquely and artistically drawn and painted to give them a more lizard-like feel.”

Darci Rampino, who first came to the park as a little girl, looks at the toys with nostalgia.

Tourist Nathan Bright enjoys looking at vintage postcards -- photos of children with the dinosaurs in the 1970s. They are relatives of the park owners.

“It would be a novelty just to send that out to someone because they’ll think it got lost in the mail for decades,” he said.

Joann Leight says today Dinosaur Land is getting more visitors than ever.

“Now we do a lot of advertisement on the interstates,” she explained. “Each year it keeps growing.”

David Price is continuing a family tradition by bringing his children to Dinosaur Land.

“Here I am, 30 years later, doing it all over again. I’d like to see it stay for another 100 years,” he said.

John Leight hopes his family can continue his great-grandfather’s legacy, so the park doesn’t disappear like the dinosaurs.

You May Like

Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Accuses Russia of Territorial Incursionsi
X
Zlatica Hoke
August 28, 2014 4:07 AM
Ukraine says a key border town (Novoazovsk) and surrounding areas of in southeastern Ukraine have fallen under the control of Russia's military. President Poroshenko says "Russian troops have actually been brought into Ukraine." Despite repeated denials from Moscow, Ukraine accuses the Kremlin of providing weapons and fighters to separatists in eastern Ukraine, toward the Russian leadership's alleged goal of annexing that strategic territory. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Accuses Russia of Territorial Incursions

Ukraine says a key border town (Novoazovsk) and surrounding areas of in southeastern Ukraine have fallen under the control of Russia's military. President Poroshenko says "Russian troops have actually been brought into Ukraine." Despite repeated denials from Moscow, Ukraine accuses the Kremlin of providing weapons and fighters to separatists in eastern Ukraine, toward the Russian leadership's alleged goal of annexing that strategic territory. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."