Living & Entertainment

Where can you see 12 ‘live’ giant dinosaurs? At the State Fair this year

What big teeth you have, my dear dinosaur

A behind-the-scenes look at the preparation for "Discover the Dinosaurs," a traveling educational show of animatronic dinosaurs that will run throughout the Washington State Fair.
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A behind-the-scenes look at the preparation for "Discover the Dinosaurs," a traveling educational show of animatronic dinosaurs that will run throughout the Washington State Fair.

While fairgoers will continue to get their slice of the Washington State Fair experience through classics such as the wooden roller coaster or scones smothered in butter and jam, they’re also invited to take a step back in time — and a big step at that.

The “Discover the Dinosaurs” exhibit makes its State Fair debut in the Centennial Building, inviting people of all ages to learn about dinosaurs by seeing the prehistoric creatures for themselves. The exhibit features 12 giant, animatronic dinosaurs that range from the well-known carnivorous Tyrannosaurus rex to the more surprising feathered, bird-like oviraptor.

“It brings fun and education together,” said Heather Ellis, the scene lead in charge of “bringing the exhibit to life.”

The exhibit is a downsized version of the larger, touring exhibit “Discover the Dinosaurs Unleashed” and has been put together specifically for the fair space.

The animatronic dinosaurs blink, roar and move around in order to look as much like the real thing as possible.

Ellis said some even “breathe,” pointing out a van-sized triceratops in the exhibit whom she’s nicknamed “Big Mama.” The triceratops’s rib cage gently expands and retracts, mimicking a breath.

“(Kids) love it … they’ll hear the sound and see the mouth moving and it’s a whole new surprise,” Ellis said.

Andrea Thayer, the fair’s ground entertainment manager, said the dinosaur exhibit was a perfect addition to the fair’s lineup of entertainment because it wasn’t like any other attraction at this year’s fair.

“You feel very immersed in the experience,” she said. “They move, they look so realistic.”

This exhibit does cost a little extra — there’s a $6 admission for all fairgoers over the age of 2. But Thayer said the price is well worth it, as it allows the fair to bring in better, diverse attractions.

“Each year we try to have different features in the fair,” Thayer said. “We started adding that paid attraction feature in a few years ago to try to bring in a different caliber exhibit.”

Personally, Ellis sees a lot of value in “Discover the Dinosaurs.” She said a lot of new information about dinosaurs has been uncovered since she was a kid.

For example, the umbrella-necked, venom spitting dinosaur (known as the dilophosaurus) that she grew up seeing in the movie “Jurassic Park” was later found to not have an “umbrella” neck after all. By the time this had been discovered, the “Discover the Dinosaurs” exhibit had already created a model of the dinosaur with that feature.

“That’s how fast information is changing about dinosaurs,” she said. “I plan on using that as a teaching tool when kids come through. We’re letting you know that information changes.”

Ellis said the moving dinosaurs make it so kids are learning about dinosaurs without even realizing it.

“They question if they’re real,” she said. “A lot of kids are worried they’ll walk off any second.”

“Discover the Dinosaurs” will be available all day, every day that the fair is open.

Among other highlights at this year’s fair:

New Agriplex: The fair is the first time the Agriplex will be open. The 25,000-square-foot barn, with an 11,000-square-foot arena and a plaza next to it, was built to replace Evergreen Hall that caught fire after the Spring Fair in April 2014. During the fair, it will be used to hold livestock and has an eight-station milking stand.

Meet superheroes: Children and adults will have the chance to meet some of their favorite DC Comics and Marvel superheroes. Friday through Sunday, Captain America and Thor will be on-hand. From Wednesday-Sept. 12, it will be Batman and Wonder Woman, followed by Superman and Supergirl Sept. 14-19 and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from Sept. 21-25. They will be located near Sillyville.

Fireworks: Every Friday night there will be a fireworks show at 10 p.m.

Rodeo action: The rodeo parade and cattle drive will take place along Meridan Avenue in Puyallup at 10 a.m. Sept. 9. The rodeo action is at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sept. 9-10, with the finals at 1 p.m. Sept. 11.

Seahawks appearances: Defensive end Michael Bennett is scheduled to appear Sept. 23 at the Coca-Cola stage. He will take part in a question-and-answer session, followed by a meet and greet. On Sept. 24, the Sea Gals will perform at 1 and 4 p.m. at the Showplex Stage.

About this year’s fair

When: Friday (Sept. 2)-Sept. 25, closed on Tuesdays.

Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays; and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays.

Where: Washington State Fair Events Center, 110 Ninth Ave. SW, Puyallup.

Admission: $12.50 adults; $9 students (ages 6-18) and seniors (62 and older); free for children 5 and younger.

Deals: For Labor Day weekend, all children 18 and younger will get in free Friday-Monday. Discounts available at ticket outlets at select Safeway and Albertsons stores in Pierce, Thurston, King, Kitsap and Snohomish counties, as well as the South Hill Mall customer service center. Other deals are available online.

Parking: Available north, east and west of the fairgrounds. On-street parking is limited in the neighborhoods around the fairgrounds.

Rentals: The fair rents wheelchairs, strollers, electric carts and lockers at the Gold and Green gates. Only lockers are available at the Blue Gate. Rentals are cash only.

Information: 888-559-3247, thefair.com.

By the numbers

From the 2015 Washington State Fair.

1.6 million Number of fair scones served.

658,449 Number of free admission tickets given to students in Western Washington.

180,749 Number of Doggone Krusty Pups eaten.

38,100 Number of Marcoe’s caramel apples sold.

17,000 Number of children who had their faces painted at the face painting station.

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