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In a prehistoric face-off over food, a sea creature would seem to have the advantage over its counterpart in the air, in this scene painted for the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center's new theater hallway. The theater will be among the new features that will become available to the public for the first time at the 20-year event May 16.
Dolores Davis photo

20th anniversary event for Garden of the Gods Visitor Center May 16

       Renovated and expanded, the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center will mark 20 years with the revelation of several new features Saturday, May 16.
       These will include enhanced and expanded exhibits, a completely rebuilt theater, an updated cafeteria, the latest version of the theater video (“How the Red Rocks Got There”) and even a new main entrance.
       The public is invited to the free event, which will kick off with a ceremony at 9 a.m., continue till 5 p.m. and offer free showings of the video, which normally costs $6 for adults and $4 for children.
       Titled the “20th Anniversary Celebration,” the occasion will conclude almost a year and a half of major renovations that touched nearly every part
Led by project manager Dustin Newcomb (left) and "watched" by a replica of Garden of the Gods dinosaur Theiophytalia kerri, workers prepare another item for the Visitor Center's exhibit area during work leading up to the May 16 event.
Westside Pioneer photo
of the two-story facility at 1850 N. 30th St., across the street from the Garden of the Gods.
       A main project focus has been the creation of several nature exhibits in 1,600 square feet at the northwest corner of the second floor. The new main entrance will also be there, so that the exhibits will be the first thing visitors will see, explained Visitor Center spokesperson Dolores Davis.
       The exhibits will include regional historic background, geological information and life-like animal replicas - even one of a Theiophytalia kerri (a Cretaceous-period dinosaur found within the current Garden perimeter).
       The center is owned and operated by the Garden of the Gods Foundation, which donates a large percentage of its customer revenues to upkeep of the free, adjacent, 1,300-acre city park. The anniversary project's planning and implementation have been led by Lyda Hill, a local businesswoman/philanthropist who developed the center in 1995 and donated it to the foundation three years ago.
       “We encourage the community to come see our new exhibit area and help us celebrate 20 years of service to Garden
A floor-to-ceiling display of animals found in this region of the country is part of the new exhibit area in the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center. The outdoors-setting mural behind the animals was painted by local artist Douglas Rouse.
Westside Pioneer photo
of the Gods Park,” Davis said. The project also positions the center to handle increasing numbers of tourists. About 600,000 visitors are expected this year, and with added marketing, “we'll probably exceed 1 million in the years ahead.”
       The exhibits were designed and developed by Paul Bernhard Exhibit Design, based in Austin, Texas. A crew from his company has been working daily in recent weeks to install them. Bernhard has created major exhibits throughout the country, including Hill's Gems and Minerals Hall in Dallas, Texas, in 2012.
       Already developed and opened to the public at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center since the project started in January 2014, are a consolidated gift shop on the second floor (there had been one on each floor), expanded parking lot, new ground-floor access doors, widened main stairway and upgraded information desk.
       The renovated building will also use electricity and water at a lower rate, Davis said.
       The theater will take up most of the first floor, with a new digital format and seating to accommodate up to 53 people (the maximum capacity of one tour bus). Adding to the experience is the theater hallway, which presents on either wall chronologically sequential artwork depicting prehistoric times, which Davis described as a “geologic time capsule.”
       This is the third iteration of the “How Did Those Red Rocks Get There” video since Hill had the original movie made in 1995 to answer the question that tourists most frequently ask. With a running time of 15 minutes (including a 3-minute intro), the latest version is slightly longer than its predecessor, according to Davis. Shows are offered every 20 minutes throughout the day.
       On a regular basis, the Visitor Center, like the park, is open daily and free to the public

       Volunteers needed… The Visitor Center currently has 145 volunteers, but would welcome many more, according to Davis and Bret Tennis, the city's park operations administrator. Volunteer opportunities exist for the exhibit hall, information desk, guided walks, school groups, tour buses and interpretative programs, Davis said. For more information, call 219-0108.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 5/3/15. updated 5/4/15; Outdoors: Garden of the Gods)

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