Dinosaurs have taken over downtown!
Don’t worry—it’s not “Jurassic Park” come true. It’s just a fun, artsy way to attract people to downtown Harrisburg this summer.
A range of businesses and local organizations has sponsored a total of 30 dinosaur sculptures, some of them eight feet tall, for “Dino-mite Summer.” They’ve partnered with artists to create unique designs for the dinos—a prehistoric reincarnation of 2004’s CowParade, if you will.
“The genesis of the idea was to give people another reason to come downtown given all the negative press about parking and other perception issues,” said Ron Kamionka, the mad scientist behind the project and owner of several 2nd Street bars and clubs.
Earlier this year, downtown business owners and officials came together and pinpointed past events in Harrisburg and other cities that have been popular. Whitaker Center’s CowParade and the Downtown Improvement District’s past First Friday concerts both drew people into Harrisburg, and outdoor art exhibits are common during the summer in many cities.
But why dinosaurs? Stamford, Conn., and Pittsburgh have successfully run similar dinosaur-themed summer festivals in recent years. Plus, they’re fun and family-friendly.
“We wanted to pick statues that would appeal to kids, families, the arts community,” Kamionka said. “It seemed like a base that appealed to many groups.”
Starting this month, look for dino sculptures of all kinds in the area from Market to Pine streets and Front to 3rd streets.
Sponsorships were $2,500, which covered the $300 artist honorarium and the costs of the sculptures, their bases and all other supplies. A portion of the sponsorship, plus any other money raised throughout the summer, will go to Shalom House, a shelter for women and children on Allison Hill.
Dino-mite Summer will be more than just sculptures of the prehistoric reptiles. Kamionka has partnered with Harrisburg Young Professionals and Park Harrisburg for free concerts on the roof of the River Street Garage on the first Friday of June, July and August. The Wailers, a reggae band once fronted by Bob Marley, will be the first to play.
Second Saturdays—all-ages events that will shut down a block or two of 2nd Street—are also being held in conjunction with HYP. June’s event, “Prehistoric Putt Putt,” will feature an 18-hole golf tournament with prizes for different age groups.
And the dino-fun just continues:
- A big-screen showing of each installment of “Jurassic Park” will be held on Tuesday evenings in June.
- Lunchtime events, such as a block party and a fair, will be held each fourth Thursday of the month for the commuter crowd.
- A sidewalk carnival, a jazz and arts festival and a special dinosaur-themed beer (thanks to the Brewery at Hershey) are all planned.
“We’re very proud of our downtown,” said Ralph Vartan, an HYP board member and CEO of Vartan Group, which owns property downtown. “HYP people love Harrisburg, and I think we’re a little bit honored that Ron thinks enough of HYP to bring us into the loop.”
The city also is on board.
“Dino-mite Summer is bringing a whole new attraction to downtown Harrisburg,” said Devan Drabik, Harrisburg’s director of business development. “We wanted to give people something new and exciting to do downtown and something that they can enjoy while they’re visiting their favorite restaurant. It’s just a great way to spend the whole day here in Harrisburg and see all that we have to offer.”
Brad Jones, president and CEO of Harristown Enterprises, also saw the potential of Dino-mite to open people’s eyes to what Harrisburg has to offer. Harristown, which owns Strawberry Square, is sponsoring a strawberry-clad “farmer” T-Rex painted by Andy Nardone. It’s on display on Market Street.
“It will be well-timed with all the other exciting things going in the Square,” Jones said.
Once Dino-mite Summer ends post-Labor Day, sponsors can keep the statues, auction them off or donate them to the city. But just because summer’s over doesn’t mean the momentum will stop.
“This is a multi-year commitment on our part to make sure that we keep building,” Kamionka said.
Even though a lot of the planning fell on him and his staff this year, Kamionka has already noticed interest from others in getting involved. He envisions the development of an independent committee for planning large-scale downtown programs like Dino-mite.
Drabik was also positive about the continued excitement around Dino-mite Summer.
“I hope that this does gain momentum, and this is just the first of many fun summer campaigns,” she said. “I’m interested to hear what everybody’s feedback is.”
For more information about Dino-mite Summer, including a schedule of events, visit www.dinomitesummer.com.