Dinosaurs are the draw, but education and science are the beneficiaries of this Western Slope city's newest attraction.
Giant robotic dinosaurs loom over visitors snaking through the cavernous Devils Canyon Science and Learning Center, thrilling and fascinating thousands who have visited this unusual exhibition since its midsummer opening.But there is more to this joint project of the city of Fruita and Dinamation International Society than the huge hissing and spitting dilophosaurus.
Interactive displays demonstrate the forces of the Earth at work, from a glacier to a vibrating floor pad that simulates the shaking of an earthquake.
In one corner of the 22,000-square-foot building, large glass windows allow visitors to view volunteers and professional paleontologists painstakingly working with dinosaur and mammal fossils unearthed from western Colorado quarries.
Above the expansive laboratory, there is a classroom for paleontologists, volunteers or teachers interested in brushing up on their knowledge of old bones. And an auditorium can seat 130 guests.
"This is entertaining, but there is so much science in here. It just never gets boring," said city manager John Schneiger.
Fruita and Dinamation International Society, a nonprofit and educational arm of Dinamation International Corp., paired up to finance and construct the $2 million project. Grants provided much of the funding for Fruita, which straddles I-70 not far from the Utah border.
Dinamation International Society was founded three years ago to support scientific research into dinosaurs, said Michael Perry, executive director. The society leases the dinosaurs in Devils Canyon from Dinamation International Corp., which distributes its life-size and robotic replicas of tyrannosaurus rex or allosaurus world-wide.
Displays include chalkboards for children to draw dinosaurs and an exhibit that allows visitors to create sounds a duckbill dinosaur could have made.
The overriding goal of the creative displays at Devils Canyon is education, Perry said, "and we believe that education and entertainment are synonymous."
"We've found dinosaurs are a wonderful bridge, a wonderful hook, for people into science, and they always will be."
One corner of the exhibit area is devoted to research. The spacious paleontology lab contains microscopes, long storage shelves, tools and ample work space for professional paleontologists or volunteers to laboriously scrape away rock from fragile fossils.