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May 24, 2017

Dragon Festival LogoThe Virginia Museum of Natural History is preparing to offer its most heated summer lineup of events yet, and fire-breathing dragons aren't the only reason why.  This summer, the museum is offering the first-ever Dragon Festival on Saturday, June 17, the Dino Festival from Friday, July 21 through Saturday, July 22, and its lineup of week-long Summer Adventure Camps beginning June 5.  Additionally, the museum will open on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. beginning May 28 and ending September 3.

The inaugural Dragon Festival, which will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., is a chance for museum visitors to explore the lore of dragons, the impact these creatures have had on societies across the globe, and the science behind the growth and dissemination of their myth.  A preview reception for VMNH members will be held on the evening of June 16.  Current members can RSVP for the reception by June 8.  In addition to current members, anyone who joins as a member before June 8 can also register to attend the members’ preview.

"Dragons have found a strong footing in popular culture and there is actually quite a bit of scientific evidence that helps explain how people incorrectly concluded that these creatures may have actually existed," said Ryan Barber, deputy director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History.  "When you think about it, dragons have been a myth shared by countless societies throughout the world for centuries.  How did people at opposite ends of the world, with no contact with one another, all conceive the idea of the dragon?"

The festival will explore this question through scientific specimens and entertainment.

"This event is going to be a bit different than what you might expect the museum to host," said Barber.  "We will have fire-breathers, a dragon parade, dragon sculpture and inflatables, live-action history performed by Vikings of the Valley, art, poetry sessions, and so much more.  We're also encouraging everyone who is interested in live-action role playing to come to the festival in character that's related to the dragon theme."

After the flames of the Dragon Festival have been extinguished, the museum will shift focus on other giant beasts that continue to capture peoples' imaginations.  This time, however, the beasts were very real.

The Dino Festival, which takes place from 3 to 8 p.m. on Friday, July 21 and resumes Saturday, July 22 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., is the museum's re-imagined take on its popular Dino Day Festival.

"Because of the popularity of Dino Day in previous years, we decided to make the event a 2-day spectacle, in which we will unveil a large variety of new dinosaur cast skeletons and fossils never before seen at the museum," said Barber.  "Of course, we will also offer all of the staples that help make museum festivals so much fun, such as presentations by world-renowned paleontologists, and a variety of games, crafts and other activities for both children and adults.”

The Dino Festival will coincide with the unveiling of the museum's special exhibit "Dinosaurs: Reign of the Giants", which will feature the life-size cast skeletons of Triceratops and Stegosaurus, the latter coming to the museum as a gift from the Smithsonian Institution.  The exhibit opens to the public on July 21, with a preview reception for VMNH members to be held on the evening of July 20.  Current members can RSVP for the reception by July 14.  In addition to current members, anyone who joins as a member before July 14 can also register to attend the members’ preview.

"We are incredibly excited to be able to offer visitors Stegosaurus beginning in July," said Barber.  "This particular Stegosaurus was recently re-casted by technicians at the Smithsonian Institution, after being one of the most iconic displays for nearly 100 years at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.  To be selected as the permanent home for this display is an honor and an exciting opportunity to make our visitors' experiences even more memorable."

Additionally, the exhibit will feature a large variety of dinosaur fossils from the museum's collections, including the world's only discovered fossil evidence that Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops engaged in battle.

"The festival and exhibit opening will mark the first time this fossil has ever been on public display; not just at VMNH, but anywhere," said Barber.  "It's an incredible discovery that is well-known among scientists and researchers, and to now be able to put it on public display for the first time is something the museum is anxious to offer."

Children wanting to take a break from fending off dragons and dinosaurs will have plenty of other adventures waiting for them during one of 14, week-long Summer Adventure Camps the museum is hosting for ages 6-14.

The camps run the gamut of themes, from "Imagination Expedition", where campers will put on their imagination helmets and embark on a journey to different regions of the world, where they will discover what it is like to be a mummy, a ninja, a pirate, and more, to "Junior Naturalists", where campers will explore local outdoor treasures and earn Junior Naturalist certification along the way.

"This year's line-up of Summer Adventure Camps was created to appeal to the unique interests of every child," said Christy Deatherage, education manager at the museum.  "We have camps inspired by the Harry Potter series, camps that focus on outdoor survivalist skills, camps that allow children to create scientific experiments and new inventions, and seemingly everything in between."

A full list of the museum's Summer Adventure Camps is below.  Each camp takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with optional before and after care available.  Each camp requires pre-registration 2 weeks in advance.  For more information about the camps, including costs and available scholarships, visit www.vmnh.net/summer-adventure-camps or contact the museum at discover@vmnh.virginia.gov or at 276-634-4185.

For more information about museum festivals, including times, admission costs, and offerings, visit www.vmnh.net.

VMNH Summer Adventure Camps

June 5 - 9
Mad Scientists!
Ages 9 - 11

June 5 - 9
Dragon Breath Academy
Ages 12 - 14

June 12 - 16
Outdoor Adventures
Ages 6 - 8

June 19 - 23
Marvels of Technology
Ages 6 - 8

June 19 - 23
Mythical Mayhem
Ages 9 - 11

June 26 - 30
Imagination Expedition
Ages 6 - 8

June 26 - 30
Junior Naturalists
Ages 9 - 11

July 10 - 14
Let’s Experiment!
Ages 6 - 8

July 10 - 14
Space in Pop Culture
Ages 9 - 11

July 17 - 21
Dino Days
Ages 6 - 8

July 24 - 28
Adventure Around the World
Ages 9 - 11

July 24 - 28
Outdoor Survival Skills
Ages 12 - 14

July 31 - August 4
Build This
Ages 6 - 8

July 31 - August 4
Country Creation
Ages 9 - 11


Thank you to our sponsors

The Dragon Festival is sponsored by Roanoke College, Martinsville-Henry County Tourism, Bassett Furniture Industries, and the Virginia Tourism Corporation.  The Dino Festival is sponsored by The Helen S. and Charles G. Patterson, Jr. Charitable Foundation Trust, Blue Ridge Bank, Martinsville-Henry County Tourism, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, U.S. Cellular, and Bassett Furniture Industries.  The “Dinosaurs: Reign of the Giants” exhibit is sponsored by The Helen S. and Charles G. Patterson, Jr. Charitable Foundation Trust, Blue Ridge Bank, Martinsville-Henry County Tourism, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, and Bassett Furniture Industries.  VMNH Summer Camps are sponsored by Southwestern Piedmont Master Naturalists and Kiwanis.

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