Abstract Church’s “Jurassic in the Park” event drew well over a thousand people to Elkin Municipal Park Sunday evening.
Pastor Alan Parsons said estimated attendance for the third in a series of summer outreach programs the church has held in the park ranged from 1,200 to 1,500. “Some people came by the vanloads,” he said.
The church had purchased 600 hot dogs for “Jurassic in the Park,” but when Parsons saw the number of families arriving at the 6 p.m. start time, he went to Food Lion and bought 400 more. He said he bought every 24-pack of hot dogs the store had except for one.
Church volunteers stood for 2-1/2 hours in the sweltering heat serving hot dogs and all the fixings, nachos and cheese, other snacks and drinks to a long line of people that persisted until almost the end. Snow cones also were served at a separate booth, and at one point, Parons said more than a hundred people were waiting in line for them.
Parsons and the church volunteers were thrilled by the huge turnout. Attendance at May’s “Super Heroes” event was estimated at 750, and June’s beach-themed event at 500.
At one point during the evening, Parsons said he walked up on a hill where he could see all the people enjoying themselves at the dinosaur-themed stations. “It really did bring tears to my eyes,” he said, “because the fact is I knew God would move when we planted this church, but I had no idea how He would move.
“To see people coming, sure, they were coming for the dinosaurs, but ultimately what they were experiencing was the presence of God and the love of God by people who care.”
Parons said he saw puppeteer Ed Bounds of Concord with his Rodney and Friends entourage of dinosaurs at the North Carolina Zoo and arranged for him to come to the event.
Children couldn’t seem to get enough of Bounds’ oh-so-friendly dinosaurs. Rodney, a large Deinonycus, was so realistic looking it was easy to forget that Bounds (with only his black pants showing underneath) was the puppeteer for the 70-pound dinosaur.
Adults seemed captivated by the dinosaurs as well, and some who already had taken photos of them with their children asked others to photograph them with Rodney and Baby T (a baby Tyrannosaurus Rex).
Throughout the event, Rodney posed for hundreds of photos, walked around and danced with those who wanted to join him at the end. Dodging his long tail made it even more fun for those dancing.
The baby Triceratops Triplets were popular with the smaller children, who sat on the animated dinosaurs. A bouncy slide and two dinosaur-themed bouncy castles were also hits with the children.
Robin Parsons, Pastor Alan’s mother and the director of the Abstract Kids program for ages 4 to 10, said the event was bigger than they ever imagined. “I just think it’s amazing how the whole community can come together from all walks of life,” she said.
“You see dinosaurs on TV,” Robin Parsons said, “and you hear about them at school, but to actually be able to see something that is as realistic as Mr. Ed’s dinosaurs was amazing. It just looked like they came to life.”
Melissa and Greg Easter of Dobson brought their three children, 11-year-old Ben, 7-year-old Lindsay and 5-year-old Riley to Jurassic Park. “I think it’s great,” Melissa said, “a good opportunity to share the word of God.”
People were there from several surrounding towns and counties, having read about the event in newspapers or seen fliers displayed around the area.
Bounds, who lives in Concord, said he has been busy with his traveling dinosaur show since the “Jurrasic Park” movie came out this summer. “We’ve been slammed,” he said, “but this is one of the biggest. On a scale from 1 to 10, I’d give this a 14.”
On Monday morning after the event, he said he already had booked four parties from people he met in Elkin. Though he does birthday parties for a base price of $300, Bounds said he is willing to work with people who can’t afford that much. “Tell me what you can do, and we’ll find a way to make it happen,” he said.
Zoo officials gifted Bounds with Baby T for his volunteer work. “I went home and cut its eyes out and made them move,” he said.
That was the beginning of the Rodney and Friends entourage, and it grows as Bounds continues to add more dinosaurs.
Rodney and Friends has its own Facebook page with more than 1,000 likes. The website is www.dinoparties.com.
Bounds said he is amazed at how many people want to help him spread the word about Rodney and Friends. Web designer Brooks Briz, for example, saw him with the dinosaurs at an Intimidators Minor League baseball game in Kannapolis and offered to build the website for him at no cost.
Among his favorite places to take the dinosaurs are children’s hospitals and rest homes. At one rest home visit, Bounds said he noticed the nurses who work with the residents every day openly weeping when they saw them enjoying the dinosaurs.
Kathy Chaffin may be reached at 336-258-4058.