How do you make a garden full of life-size dinosaurs even more creepy? Wait until the sun goes down.
The George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park in Ogden returns with its Carnivore Carnival this weekend and next, offering the only opportunity during the year to view the more than 100 life-size dinosaur replicas after dark.
“We have the park all decorated with twinkle lights and various Halloween displays,” said Jeff Bond, education director for the dinosaur park. “We’ve also set colored lights on the dinosaurs themselves. It puts them, literally, in a whole new light.”
Bond says the colorful spotlights that are trained on the outdoor dinosaur sculptures add a dramatic and spooky atmosphere to the park.
The Carnivore Carnival opens Thursday, Oct. 17, and continues Friday and Saturday this weekend and the next at the park near the mouth of Ogden Canyon. Hours are 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. each day.
The two-hour events will include carnival games, booths, and other family-friendly activities. A “Trek-or-Treat” will be offered at the west end of the park, with volunteers standing next to dinosaur sculptures, giving out candy, and telling visitors a little more about their particular dinosaur.
“They pretend like it’s the dinosaurs giving out the candy, so they need human assistance,” Bond said.
Because, you know, can you imagine a T.rex trying to give out candy with its tiny, very-nearly-useless arms?
A costume parade will be held each night, with prizes to the winners.
At 7:30 p.m. each day, Bond will give a half-hour presentation on Halloween-themed paleontology.
“It’s a different topic in paleontology each year, somehow related to Halloween,” he said. “This year, I’ll talk about the creepy crawlies in the fossil record.”
Indeed, if you’ve ever wondered what’s the biggest spider to roam the earth in prehistoric days, Bond will talk about this and many other strange crawling creatures.
At the Bone Cabin Outpost, which is a science education center on the grounds of the park, staff members will offer a special make-and-take craft.
“This year, we’ll be making monsters,” Bond said.
In a somewhat related vein, the Eccles Dinosaur Park’s Flashlight Adventure is back for a third year, according to Bond. The event, which he describes as a Carnivore Carnival without the games and trick-or-treating, focuses more on the educational aspects of the park.
The Flashlight Adventure has the same hours as the carnival, but it will be held on two consecutive Monday nights, Oct. 21 and 28, from 6 to 8:30 p.m.
Instead of giving out candy, the park will have fossils and other specimens for visitors to touch.
“It will be a little like a tour, but something that’s more self-guided,” Bond said.
And Bond says one of the creepiest moments of the Halloween season comes during the Monday night events.
“On the Flashlight Adventure evenings we do have a couple of blackout periods,” he said. “For about five minutes we’ll shut off all the lights.”
Visitors then wander through the park with their flashlights, shining them on the dinosaur replicas — some that are brought to life by robotics and state-of-the-art sound systems.
“It’s the best ‘Jurassic Park’ experience you can get, because with all the lights off it’s just you, your flashlight, and a park full of dinosaurs,” Bond said. “It’s hard to describe, but having walked around the park after dark myself, it can get a bit eerie with all those sculptures around.”
Bond said visitors are encouraged to bring their own flashlights, although they will also be sold at the park.
Admission to either the Carnivore Carnival or the Flashlight Adventure is $3 for adults and seniors, and $5 for children ages 2 to 12.
“This would be something you’d want to get your tickets for in advance,” Bond said.
For tickets, visit dinosaurpark.org or call 801-393-3466.
Bond said despite the possible bad weather this weekend, the event goes on, rain or (moon) shine.
“We’ve had it happen just about every year,” he said. “There’s been a threat of bad weather — that’s just the nature of fall.”
If there is rain, Bond says they’ll simply move many of the activities inside.
“But for the folks who are brave enough to come out, we still put on a pretty good show,” Bond said.