No bones about it: New Carbondale club celebrates dinosaurs

Stephanie Spaid, assistant director to the Carbondale Children’s Library, next to Jurassic Raptor ‘Park Ranger’ Eric Skurka and his newest dinosaur, Gems. The Carbondale Public Library will launch a brand-new dinosaur club for kids on Saturday.

Calling all Upvalley dinosaur fans: Carbondale Public Library is launching a brand new club with a little help from an expert.

Starting Saturday, kids can visit the library at 5 N. Main St. to learn more about dinosaurs and even meet a few, thanks to Eric Skurka, 50. The self-appointed park ranger of Jurassic Raptor 570, Skurka launched his business in June, inspired by his love of cars and trucks and the premiere of Jurassic World: Dominion movie.

After hearing about a similar club, also led by Skurka, recently started at North Pocono Library, Carbondale Public Library Assistant Director Stephanie Spaid said she wanted to bring it there, too. Carbondale’s club will meet on the third Saturday of each month from 10:30 a.m. to noon and is aimed at kids 4 to 12. Each month, the club will focus on different dinosaurs.

“Basically, it’s to just have educational fun, just to bring the kids in, give them some activities to do and enjoy an hour and a half with other people,” she said. “We don’t have much Saturday programming for children here, and I think this club will be a great addition because there isn’t anything like it around here.”

Skurka’s dino venture was entirely accidental, he said. He wanted to decorate his Ford Raptor for the summer car show season. To play on the truck’s name, he decided to deck out his truck in a Jurassic Park theme and purchased a velociraptor puppet to add to the spectacle. The puppet, which he named Ruby, arrived on June 9, just in time for the new Jurassic Park movie.

“The first Jurassic Park movie in 1993 inspired me to buy a Ford Explorer,” he said. “So you can say I’ve been a fan of dinosaurs for a while.”

Once the truck was fully decorated, it attracted plenty of attention from passersby. People would stop to take pictures of the truck whenever they saw it in public, whether it be at the gas station or on the road. His friends started asking him to do something special with it because of its popularity, which eventually led him to start Jurassic Raptor 570.

Skurka knew even before he started he wanted it to not just be entertaining, but to be educational as well. He knows that kids are fascinated with dinosaurs, so he just wants to tap into that and give them something special.

“This just facilitates learning more through hands-on, interactive stuff instead of just TV,” Skurka said.

Skurka started looking for more dinosaur puppets and props he could use for this new project. Originally, he got puppets from a manufacturer in China called Only Dinosaurs. When they got too expensive, he decided to instead collaborate with a local puppeteer to, as he put it, “hatch them in their engineering lab.”

Joining Ruby on his visits to libraries, birthday parties and other special events is Bumpers the Ankylosaurus, named after the same kind of baby dinosaur from the TV show “Jurassic Park: Camp Cretaceous,” and Gems the Triceratops, his most recent hatch. Ruby’s teeth can be a bit sharp for younger kids, so he tends to show off Bumpers first if a kid is hesitant.

“If kids are a little apprehensive at first, we go slow with it,” Skurka said. “I basically let the kids know that he’s not going to hurt you.”

This project turned out to be a runaway success, with Skurka and his dinosaurs attending birthday parties. school events, street fairs and even weddings. When he first started, he didn’t charge for events because he wasn’t sure if he wanted it to be a job. However, his clients urged him to charge for his services and he took their advice.

In addition to being booked for all sorts of events, he’s also done plenty of cross-promotional activities with local businesses, featuring fun social media posts showing the dinosaurs eating at local restaurants and Skurka in his truck chasing a dinosaur through a drive thru. He doesn’t charge for these activities; he’s just happy to get the word out and support these businesses.

Skurka has big plans for Jurassic Raptor going forward, including turning it into a nonprofit organization. He is thinking about rebranding by dropping the 570 in the business name to expand to more area codes in Pennsylvania, New York,and New Jersey.

In the meantime, Skurka will continue to bring his truck and his dino friends to libraries and other places.

“My future goals are to make as many people smile as possible and to pretty much just continue spreading fun and helping local business as much as possible,” Skurka says.

For more information, check out Jurassic Raptor 570 on Facebook and Instagram or call 570-802-DINO.

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