'Discover the Dinosaurs' not exactly the real thing

This weekend, locals can “Discover the Dinosaurs” at Cashman Center.

Kids can ride dinosaurs, play with dinosaurs and, possibly, learn something about dinosaurs. They can even take one home.

But there’s a catch: It costs money to do these things. And people may have to stand in line. The most stunning and controversial aspect of this dinosaur show? The dinosaurs are fake. That’s right, the dinosaurs in this “Discover the Dinosaurs” exhibit are replicas.

This shocking news was sent to the Review-Journal in a recent email. In it, the Deep Throat of dinosaur attractions wrote: “BEWARE! Dinosaur Show on it’s (sic) way to Las Vegas April 12, 13, 14 at Cashman Center Exhibit Hall A. Should the media (and) schools help promote this event? Read all of the reviews and comments on the links below and make your own decision.”

The email included links to critical reviews on Yelp and other websites. There was also a link to a Facebook anti-fan page called “People should know the truth about ‘Discover the Dinosaurs.’ ”

In a follow-up email, the whistle-blower asked to remain anonymous.

“I sincerely hope that you investigate this promotion,” Deep Throat wrote. “I cannot talk to you personally, due to the fact that these people are somewhat aggressive and they scare me.”

Those “people” are the dinosaur show producers, Blue Star Productions based out of Minnesota.

The company has been in the event and promotions business for 20 years but this is their first foray into the prehistoric world of automatronic dinosaurs, inflatable dino rides and Jurassic dino golf.

Last year, the company “came across a (dinosaur) opportunity and said, ‘Hey this is maybe something we can get behind,’ ” says Blue Star’s spokesman, Eric Dornfeld.

The exhibit is filled with dozens of dinosaurs ranging in size, materials and capabilities, Dornfeld says. The whole idea is to provide a place for kids to get up close and personal with these dinosaurlike figures. They can sit on some of them, touch others and dig in a sandbox for “fossils.”

A few dinosaur figures have movable parts that kids can control. The show features other activities, including face painters, a coloring wall and more.

Since launching their dinosaur show, Blue Star has learned an important lesson: Dinosaurs are popular. This is both good and bad.

People turn out by the hundreds to take their dino-loving kids to see an artist’s interpretation of a creature that hasn’t walked the Earth in more than 200 million years. That’s good for business, yes. But the crowds and the lines they form? Those are bad. People get impatient when they have to wait.

That’s apparent in many of the negative comments online.

“The thing is, obviously when it’s crowded, I can understand that people get a little frustrated,” Dornfeld says.

Recently, promoters started urging people to check out the exhibit during slow times to help relieve the crowds and customer frustration. Fridays are a great day to visit, Dornfeld says. Early Saturday and Sunday are good times to come, too.

Cost is another issue that Dornfeld says the company has addressed. In the first few months, the exhibit charged a basic entrance fee and then had parents purchase individual tickets for the rides. Online commenters shredded the company for this policy.

Now, there is an inclusive fee of $20 for kids ages 2 to 12. The cost includes the exhibit; Dino Dig; Dino Den (2-foot-tall dinosaurs that kids can hug); Dino Theater; Dino Coloring Station; Scavenger Hunt; unlimited dinosaurs rides; mini golf; and inflatables. Face painting and a fossil and gem dig cost extra.

Guests ages 13 and older will be allowed in for $17.

“That was us listening to the customer and making things better in response to the feedback,” Dornfeld says of the price change.

Another issue that customers complained about are the dinosaurs themselves. In Boston, an anonymous reviewer called it the worst show he’s ever visited. His main problem? Cheap exhibits with rubber dinosaurs that were nothing like the real ones.

IndyDad in Chicago left a comment on the Chicago Tribune website, telling others not to go to the event because “it is a trap targeting parents whose only wish is to see their children have a good time.”

If you go, it’s probably a good idea to remember, this is not “Jurassic Park” the movie or the theme park depicted in the movie.

Some dinosaurs may not be full size. Some may look fake. That, Dornfeld says, is a challenge that the company’s staff always faces.

“It is a traveling exhibit. Although we would love for all of our figures to be as realistic as possible, you can’t fit a 35 foot-tall dinosaur into a semi-trailer,” Dornfeld says. “We’re trying to include more educational components and improving it all the time.”

Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at spadgett@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4564. Follow @StripSonya on Twitter.