The Boys & Girls Club of San Fernando Valley’s annual Thanksgiving dinner served the usual turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberries on Tuesday in Pacoima, and a special guest showed up to wow the 60 children enjoying a meal: “Dino” Don Lessem and Blue, his life-sized Velociraptor from Lessem’s Dinosaurs in the Valley, now on display at Pierce College in Woodland Hills.
Former journalist Lessem is one of the world’s leading presenters of dinosaur displays, the author of 50 books, and was an advisor to Stephen Spielberg for the movie Jurassic Park. “I used to be a reporter for The Boston Globe, and they sent me on a dinosaur story, and I never came back. That was the end of that,” Lessem explained about his career change in 1984. His choice was a good one as he became a leading expert on dinosaurs and founded Dino Don, Inc., which makes the biggest and most accurate dinosaur robots in the world for zoos and museums.
He even has a dinosaur named in his honor, the Lessemsaurus.
Lessem entertained the children with jokes and facts as he pulled fossils from a suitcase and invited children to touch and hold the relics as he explained them. Then Blue entered the room to screams from some and cheers from others. Blue is a lifelike Velociraptor manned by an actor hidden inside the realistic creature.
Blue made its way through the room to let each of the children get a look, with the bravest children giving it a pet or feeling Blue’s teeth.
The children, ages 6 to 17, took photos, asked questions of the experts, and touched the friendly Blue from head to tail. Lessem believes that impressing children with realistic dinosaurs is the best way to get them interested. “The thing about the robots (dinosaurs) is that there’s no other way to see a dinosaur full-size.”
“You go to the movies,” Lessem says, “maybe that will give you some sense, but part of what’s amazing about them is kids feel awe that they are as big as buildings. So if you show them what (dinosaurs) really look like, that makes a kind of impression that lasts for life. You know, you could tell them a fact or two that doesn’t make the difference — (but) seeing something that overwhelms you, does.”
For more information on Dinosaurs in the Valley, at Pierce College through Dec. 18, visit: https://www.dinosaursinthevalley.com/