Down-home Traditional Kitsch—Dinosaur Roadside Attractions
Just say “roadside dinosaurs” and everyone knows what to expect in our modern age of—well, NO dinosaurs. Most dinosaur roadside attractions are inaccurate representations of the real creatures that roamed the earth millions of years ago. However, they are still just that—representations. They are interesting depictions of real creatures that roamed the earth millions of years ago!
Some Examples of Dinosaur Roadside Attractions
Tagged as “tourist traps”, they are indeed usually intended to “trap” tourists (not nearly so unsuspecting), or at least to lure them to an area. There may be a dinosaur set up to designate that spot as a resource for fuel and refreshment. To be frank, there are good examples and there are bad examples:
- One comes to mind as a particularly sad example, and one frequented on many journeys of tourism near the Petrified Forest National Park of Arizona. While it appears that whoever built the dinosaur attraction at Stewart’s Petrified Wood (used as an advertisement for “FOSSILS”) was indeed concerned about landing in the vicinity of the correct color family, it also appears that—beyond color—not much was known about the true appearance of any prehistoric dinosaur. The head appears to be the head of some old advert horse, attached to a body decidedly bovine and quite unnatural. It is enshrined in lights designed to advertise far and wide in the dark, and appears to be in need of much repair. One never can be sure if this “horse” is being ridden or picked to death.
- Less on the ad side (if you’re there, you’re there), we have the obviously lovingly created “wrinklesuarid” dinosaur standing just outside the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center in Jurupa, California. Definitely a sort of branding tactic, no one misses Wrinkles.
- As with most of our dinosaur roadside attractions, some “tourist traps” exist to prompt an action or make a statement. No less so with the slightly controversial roadside monsters at Cabazon, California. Known as the Cabazon Dinosaurs, they are popular in our culture today. Many of us have been there ourselves, maybe many times en route to wherever. The Cabazon Dinos can be seen frequently in the popular smash hit movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, and appear in several other popularized formats. In reality, the Cabazon Dinosaurs offers sustenance for any immediate need, if you can purchase it. There is entertainment in the form of the museum, which is a creationist museum and a very interesting place to visit. The irony of the place is a fairly recent adaptation which merely adds to the kitsch of the environment. Mostly, they are to be appreciated for the roadside attractions that they are—amazing, larger than life, and a cool place to stop in for a drink and a bite to eat, maybe purchase some souvenirs or some needed toiletry item for the road. Maybe something for the ice-chest.
Dinosaur Roadside Attractions Inspire Many
So, while many of us got our first inklings of any dinosaur existence from such roadside displays as these, we cannot help, as adults, but to be more critical of their makeup—which only seems to add to the awareness of being so—adult—and of course to the humor of the whole thing. These dinosaur roadside attractions were definitely not designed with the paleontologist in mind, but they definitely came from a place of science and discovery.