Kitschy Roadside Attraction: Everyone Should Walk Up A 65-Foot-Tall Dinosaur, Right?

by SharonKurheg

In September 2016, while on our way to Desert Trip music festival to see some of the best and certainly the largest concert we have ever seen in our lives, Joe and I stopped at an over 40-year-old roadside attraction just off the I-10, about 13 miles west of Palm Springs: the Cabazon Dinosaurs!
Dino3Originally called Claude Bell’s Dinosaurs, after the sculptor and theme park artist who designed and built them, the stop, which is clearly visible from the highway, includes 2 gigantic dinosaurs made of concrete and steel: Dinny The Dinosaur (a 150-foot-long Apatosaurus) and Mr. Rex, a 65-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus Rex. Funnily enough, Mick Jagger commented about it when the Rolling Stones were playing at Desert Trip: “We’re looking forward to seeing the dinosaur park.”

Claude Bell was a portrait artist and sculptor for Knott’s Berry Farm when he decided to make a way to attract more customers for his Wheel Inn Restaurant, which opened in 1958. Dinny was completed in 1975 (construction began in 1964) and Mr. Rex in 1986 (his construction only took 5 years). A third dinosaur, a woolly mammoth, was supposed to come next, but Mr. Bell died in 1988 and the plans never came to fruition.

Bell’s family sold the property in the mid-1990s to the Cabazon Family Partnership and MKA Cabazon Partnership. The partnership believes in creationism and several of the souvenirs in the gift store in Dinny’s belly reflect this. As per Wikipedia, “In stark contrast to that belief are Bell’s painted frescoes and sculptures inside Dinny, depicting a naturalist and evolutionary viewpoint. Bell’s paintings include representations of Cro-Magnon man (labeled “Cro-Magnon Man 30,000 [years ago]”) and Java Man (labeled “Java Man 400,000″). Bell’s historic displays now exist alongside information detailing the creationist viewpoint of the earth and man’s origins.”

In case the dinosaurs look familiar to you, they’ve been in a bunch of movies, such as Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and National Lampoon’s Vacation and in music videos such as Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule the World” and Susanna Hoffs’ “Raining.”

Joe and I didn’t have a whole lot of time so although we took some photos and briefly went through the souvenir shop, we didn’t climb up Mr. Rex (that would have involved going into their open air dino museum). Maybe another time. Because everyone should walk up a 65-foot-tall dinosaur once in their lives, right?

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