A gray dinosaur looms skeletally over Blue Mountain Road, inviting passers-by to spend the night at the Rip Van Winkle Campgrounds—or at least to pull over and take a few photos. For those who do stick around, the dinosaur clearly stakes out the entrance to the “Fun Zone,” where an appropriately large checkerboard rests beneath the tip of its curved tail, checkers stacked like so many red and black droppings.
Dino, as the 38-foot tall by 49-foot long, four-ton steel sculpture is called, was originally commissioned by Philips Electronics for the company›s Multimedia Village at Woodstock ’94, held in Saugerties. Philips hoped to sell its new CD format, and wanted a dramatic gateway to attract people to their exhibit.
The company enlisted Dan Hubp of New York City-based MEGA, who collaborated with Chris Lawrence of High Falls’ O&S Engineering to design and build the display. Dino began, as so many epic ideas do, as a sketch Hubp scrawled on a napkin. “It was a lousy sketch of a sitting dinosaur,” remembers Lawrence.
They went through 40 pages more of drawings before settling on the design. Somewhere along the way, Lawrence decided «it would be great if there was a dinosaur who had eaten all of this archaic technology.» When the display was done, Dino had accrued 800 pounds of eight-track cartridges, record players, and «other stuff we might not even recognize as electronics today,” said Michael North of North Engineering, who assessed the integrity of the unusual structure and approved it for wind speeds of up to 75 mph. Hence the sculpture’s skeletal appearance—it was meant to embody technological prehistory.
After the festival, Dino was sent to Benson Steel, where Lawrence had built it with three assistants. The sculpture remained at Benson Steel for eight years despite Kenneth Benson’s attempts to find it a new home. At one point he reportedly negotiated with representatives from Michael Jackson’s estate. Those plans never coalesced, and R.I.C.H. Farms, an attraction off Glasco Turnpike, agreed to house the sculpture.
When R.I.C.H. Farms went up for sale last year, the Bensons contacted Brian and Eric Ellsworth, owners and operators of the Rip Van Winkle Campgrounds. As Brian puts it, they were asked “if we’d be interested in becoming the dinosaur’s parents.” Brian, who attended Woodstock ’94, was familiar with the sculpture. The brothers figured, “We had the property, so [we] might as well give it a home.”
The dinosaur was taken down and transported to its current location in four pieces by some sixteen people—no easy task, considering the ribcage alone is wider than one lane of the road. The requisite trucking was supplied through donations from LHV Precast and Harry Vickery & Sons. Dino was reassembled on site with help from Benson Crane Services, and is sponsored by St. Jude.
Asked whether it had a gender, Eric quipped, “I looked under and didn’t see.” Attempts at classification are more fruitful: “He looks like a Brontosaurus with teeth.” Eric wasn’t far off. Lawrence and Hubp had intended it to be “an Apatosaurus with a Tyrannosaurus head.”
On Sunday afternoon, Julias and Mari, weekend visitors from New York City, were admiring Dino one last time before they went home. They felt the campgrounds were «an unlikely place for it to be.” However, given the giant checkers, ancient ledges, and billowing white beard of the establishment’s legendary namesake which greeted visitors from a sign beside the road before the sculpture was re-erected, it seems that Dino has finally found a home somewhere as unlikely as itself.
Perhaps the Campgrounds’ motto should be amended:
…And for dinosaurs!