Families enjoy Jurassic evening at Expedition McKee

VERO BEACH — There was a nip in the air, but fortunately the heavy rains that deluged the area earlier in the day had come to a halt, giving way to a full moon that shined down on Expedition McKee.

Nobody enjoys dinosaurs more than children, so with the return of the McKee Dinosaur Invasion organizers opted for a family friendly event in place of their customary, and considerably more formal, Orchid Ball. To fund the dinosaur exhibit, McKee purchased real ostrich eggs, which were sold to individual sponsors. A calligrapher decorated the eggs with sayings, memorials, etc. “Whatever each sponsor wanted was put on their egg,” explained board member Susan Schuyler Smith. Smith chose the saying, “One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade” for her egg.

The eggs are currently displayed as a temporary “Nest Egg” exhibit nestled in the center of the famous mahogany table in the Hall of Giants. At the end of the dinosaur exhibit, the eggs will be given to the sponsors to commemorate their support.

Another group of exquisite “dinosaur eggs” were on display in the Garden Cafe and are available for sale. Intricate scenes of McKee, and beautifully detailed animals were hand-painted onto the ostrich eggs by local artists Gail Cohen, Emily Tremml, Rick Kelly, Lionel Ogilvie, Janveer Miller and Gail Cohen.

Artist Rick Kelly painted four scenes of McKee on his egg, and merged them all together for a lovely panoramic effect. “It was a lot of fun, but it was difficult to hold it and paint and then try to turn it and put it down without putting my fingers into the wet paint. The best part is the way the paint went into the texture of the shell.”

Children were the honored guests at the event, and there was plenty to keep them busy. Each child was given a Children’s Guide, made possible by a grant from Quail Valley Charities, Inc. They also had a scavenger hunt sheet, dinosaur trivia questions and miniature flashlights and happily went off on trails around the Garden to search for the various items. In addition to the dinosaurs, a lucky few were able to view real owls perched up in the trees.

Carly Conboy had invited a group of her friends from Saint Edward’s School, to celebrate her 12th birthday. “I thought it would be a cool idea,” said Carly. “It’s been fun being with all my friends, walking around and seeing all the dinosaurs. It’s a good experience we can all share.”

Once back at the Education Building, kids could have their faces painted, get dinosaur tattoos, make their own shark tooth necklaces or chow down on the Dino Bone-yard Buffet, catered by Bono’s.

Dinner had a delightfully Jurassic slant, with Volcanic Extinction Coconut Shrimp, T-Rex Teriyaki Beef Skewers, Mesozoic Macaroni and Cheese, Crustaceous Chicken Tenders and Fossil Franks.

And dessert was Ice Age fascinating and fabulous, according all accounts. Liquid nitrogen was stirred into liquid ice cream ingredients and in about a minute, with a puff of icy mist, became smooth and creamy Pure Magic Ice Cream.

The verdict was “Awesome,” according to Heidi Hartline, whose daughter Hope was shivering with the cold, but thoroughly enjoying her dish of strawberry ice cream.

McKee Executive Director Christine Hobart was busy managing the popcorn machine, getting things ready for the after dinner movie showing of, A Night at the Museum.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever had a family friendly event as a major fundraiser. It’s fun to see the kids in the garden, leading their parents and grandparents around. This is what the garden is about. We’re here for the entire community and it’s wonderful to see families enjoying it together.” {igallery 157}

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