DinoFest returns to Greenfield

  • Willoughby Bear, 2, shows off their dinosaur mask Wednesday at the Greenfield Public Library as part of the upcoming annual Great Greenfield DinoFest in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • At left, Savannah Thomas, 4, tries on the dinosaur mask. Above, masks being made at the Greenfield Public Library during a a previous Great Greenfield DinoFest in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • A scene from the second annual DinoFest on in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Jurassic Roadshow brought fossils for children to look at as well as other exhibits from local experts in geology and local history at the second annual Greenfield Dinofest. Staff FILE Photo

  • Fossils seen at a previous DinoFest in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Children show off their dinosaur masks during a previous Great Greenfield DinoFest in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Savannah Thomas, 4, colors a dinosaur mask Wednesday at the Greenfield Public Library as part of a past Great Greenfield DinoFest in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Savannah Thomas, 4, colors a dinosaur mask Wednesday at the Greenfield Public Library as part of a past Great Greenfield DinoFest in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Dinosaur masks being made Wednesday at the Greenfield Public Library as part of the upcoming annual Great Greenfield DinoFest in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Dinosaur masks being made Wednesday at the Greenfield Public Library as part of the upcoming annual Great Greenfield DinoFest in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/28/2020 6:00:35 AM
Modified: 11/28/2020 6:00:25 AM

Much like everything else, 2020 DinoFest is going hybrid.
The 4th annual Great Greenfield DinoFest will stomp into the downtown again this year, but people will also have the opportunity to enjoy the fun from their own living rooms to stay COVID-19 safe.

“Of course it is disappointing for theater-makers like ourselves to not gather a large audience downtown, particularly when the event itself is usually held in collaboration with the Second Congregational Church, where Dexter Marsh worked as a sexton while befriending minister and beekeeper Lorenzo Langstroth and across the street from the sidewalk where Marsh discovered dinosaur tracks in 1835,” Piti Theatre Artistic Co-Director Jonathan Mirin said. “But as they say, a crisis is too good an opportunity to waste.”

He said the festival gives an opportunity for Sarah Doyle’s Jurassic Roadshow, which has been engaging all ages in science, history and geology around the state for a decade, to spread its wings — or claws — and connect audiences with paleontologists, artists and fossil collectors from around the nation who are “deeply engaging and knowledgeable.”

Piti Theatre Co. and Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association are bringing the festival to town on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 5 and 6, blending science, arts and community building. The event will feature Piti Youth Troupe’s comic meditation on emerging fascism, “The Mayor of Greenpants: Dino Disaster,” as well as Jurassic Roadshow’s renowned paleontologists, artists and fossil collector’s via Zoom. Presentations will explore the connections between deep time and the Pioneer Valley, and will offer a window into cutting-edge dinosaur research.

The DinoFest gives Piti Theatre the opportunity to rescue the performance that was scheduled for last March’s SYRUP Festival, which was inspired by the name “Greenfield” and discover how much fun it can be for 8- to 12-year-olds to make a humorous, yet topical, movie, Mirin said.

“The Mayor of Greenpants: Dino Disaster” tells the story of Gabby Greenpants, a candidate for mayor who, once elected, “edits” the town constitution, requiring everyone to wear green pants and declares it will be winter forever, perhaps to help her ski resort business. Little does she know that stopping time could have some unintended side effects, hence the “Dino Disaster” part.

“We were glad the Greenfield Garden Cinemas came on board as a partner, and we’ll also be streaming the movie on Sunday evening for those who can’t make it to the premiere on Saturday morning,” Mirin said. 

Telling the story of the discovery of dinosaur footprints in the early 19th century in Franklin County and other sites in the Connecticut River Valley has been a major endeavor of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association in Deerfield and its many project partners for the last 14 years. In addition to many public in-person programs, use of technology to tell the story has been an important element of the project resulting in an award-winning website, Impressions from a Lost World, Tim Neumann, PVMA’s executive director, said.

“So it is only natural to turn to technology to keep alive Dino Fest this year with a virtual version,” Neumann said. “Nearly all the institutions and individuals participating in this year’s virtual Dino Fest are old friends. It is terrific to have them so creatively involved, keeping Greenfield’s and the region’s  central role in this important history of science story visible during the pandemic.” 

All events and webinars are free to the public. Registration is required for each event.

Registration and information can be found at ptco.org/dino.

For more information, visit: bit.ly/39g967b and dinotracksdiscovery.org.

Saturday, Dec. 5Greenfield Garden Cinemas, 361 Main St.

■10:15 to 10:45 a.m.: Film premiere of “The Mayor of Greenpants: Dino Disaster,” an original comedy for all ages. Performed by Piti Theatre’s Youth Troupe with music by Northampton singer-songwriter Carrie Ferguson

■11 to 11:30 a.m.: Critics Pick: “Land of the Lost” episode

On Zoom

“Jurassic Roadshow:”

A day of presentation and live question and answer sessions with some of the most knowledgeable paleontologists specializing in dinosaur footprints and related trace fossils.

■10 to 11 a.m.: “The Great Massachusetts Terrane Wreck: Why is the Connecticut River Valley so full of dinosaur footprints?” Steve Winters, professor of earth science, Holyoke Community College Department of Environmental Science.

■11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: “Incredible Feathered Dinosaurs of the Chinese Mesozoic: How were the skin and feathers of these fabulous dinosaurs preserved?” Dr. Paul Olsen, Storke Professor of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

■1 to 2 p.m.: “Exploring Fossil Footprints with Living Birds: What can experiments with living animals tell us about extinct ones?” Dr. Stephen Gatesy, professor of biology, and Morgan Turner, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University.

■2:30 to 3:30 p.m.: “Insects Invade Lakes in the Triassic and Jurassic: Dinosaurs weren’t the only ones to leave their traces.” Dr. Patrick Getty, professor of geology at Collin College.

■4 to 5 p.m.: “PaleoArt and the Track Pack.” Artist Will Sillin talks about painting the dinosaur murals at Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, Conn., the Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College and at Greenfield Community College. Fossil collectors Ed Gregory, Harry Sharbaugh and Mark Agostini also show fossils from their personal collections.

Sunday, Dec. 6On Zoom

“The Past Meets The Present”

■2:30 to 3:30 p.m.:  Interview and Q&A with Ed Friedman, chair of Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, a Maine environmental group that is home to the sea lamprey, described as a “living fossil” and the Atlantic sturgeon, another pre-historic species that dates back to the time of the dinosaurs. Friedman has been involved in the environmental movement for five decades and in 2010 helped obtain the first smart meter opt-out program in the country from the Maine Public Utilities Commission. 

■4 to 5 p.m.: Kay Lyons, children’s librarian at Greenfield Public Library, will lead dino story time and songs followed by a dino mask-making workshop. For those who would like to pick up a mask kit from the library, they will be available on Tuesday, Dec. 1, from 10 a.m. to noon or Thursday, Dec. 4, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Children’s Room. If you don't live in the area, a list of suggested materials can be found at ptco.org/dino. 

■7 to 7:30 p.m. – “The Mayor Greenpants: Dino Disaster” will be live-streamed.

Other resources are available online for home viewers, including Piti Youth Troupe's performance, “Dexter and the Dinosaurs” and videos from PVMA, The Beneski Museum of Natural History, the Second Congregational Church and more.

Dawn of DinoFest

Intrigued by Piti Theatre’s New England-wide Bee Week program and the annual BeeFest launched by Greenfield’s Second Congregational Church, Neumann and Mirin discuss how to bring dinosaur history to life for local residents.

“I thought that the rich intersection of deep time and local history might merit a new celebration around a great scientific contribution from Greenfield’s history,” Neumann said.

In 2017, the Great Greenfield DinoFest was born. Mirin said the festival is particularly indebted to the extraordinary lives of Greenfield’s Dexter Marsh, a day laborer who noticed what looked like bird footprints in the flagstone from Montague that he was using to lay sidewalk near Town Hall in 1835, seven years before the word dinosaur was invented, and James Deane, the first person to treat the strange impressions as objects of scientific interest. He said Marsh’s keen eye and Deane’s analysis piqued the interest of Amherst College Professor Edward Hitchcock, who became the first scientist to study dinosaur tracks and interpret their meaning. He died believing that tracks had been made by giant prehistory birds. 

DinoFest 2020 is supported by grants from the Greenfield and Leyden cultural councils, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, local businesses and the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.


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