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A DINO-mite Night: Johnson County Jurassic Night Attracts 253 Children

This is the second year the Cleburne Railroaders and Southwestern Adventist University’s Dinosaur Museum and Research Center have partnered to bring this free event to the community.

SWAU dino event in Cleburne

A family enjoys the dinosaur exhibits at this past summer's Johnson County Jurassic Night at The Depot at Cleburne Station, an event partnership between the Cleburne Railroaders baseball team and Southwestern Adventist University's Dinosaur Museum and Research Center. Photo provided by Southwestern Adventist University

On Sunday evening, August 14, 2022, 253 kids received real fossils for free as they entered The Depot at Cleburne Station, home of the Cleburne Railroaders baseball team in Cleburne, Texas. Just inside the gate, full-scale exhibits of a Nanotyrannus and an Oviraptor greeted kids. Behind the dinosaurs, a “bone bed” begged kids to discover dinosaur bones for themselves before the Cleburne Railroaders took the field on Johnson County Jurassic Night at the ballpark.

This was the second year the Cleburne Railroaders and Southwestern Adventist University’s Dinosaur Museum and Research Center partnered to bring this free children's event to the community. John Junker, owner of the Cleburne Railroaders, said, “We’re really excited about this event. It’s always great to partner with Southwestern Adventist University, and what a unique opportunity to promote the university and the museum. The artifacts they give away — just everything for the kids — raises awareness. I think it’s really great.”

The partnership resulted from an invitation from Southwestern Adventist University president Ana Patterson to Junker to visit the campus. “We visited the sports complex, the gym, and its buildings. What really stood out was the nursing program ... it was just unbelievable. Then there’s the Dinosaur Museum and everything [they] do with the dinosaur dig site out in Wyoming — the amount of artifacts [they] have is unbelievable. It was really a special treat to visit the university,” he said.

“Southwestern Adventist University values community, and collaborating on events such as this strengthens the relationship between the University and the community,” said Patterson. “We are the only four-year university in Johnson County, and we value the relationship with other organizations in the community that help both of us grow.”

Dr. Jared Wood is Southwestern Adventist University’s Dinosaur Museum and Research Center director and an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. Dressed in his Cleburne Railroaders’ jersey for the game, he shared, “I personally love the partnership, because my two favorite things in the world are dinosaurs and baseball. I’ve played baseball for most of my life — I still play baseball. I’ve even played amateur baseball with some of the former Railroaders. When Mr. Junker asked if we’d be interested in some type of partnership, we jumped at the opportunity. I’ve even offered to put a dinosaur bone in the Railroaders Museum for the team and the community.”

Rory Niewenhous, in charge of partnership marketing for the Cleburne Railroaders, explained, “Last year we did a dinosaur night, but we wanted to do it even better this year. To get the kids to come out, we let all kids in free to see the dinosaurs and learn about the Dinosaur Museum and Research Center.”

Plans are underway for next year’s Johnson County Jurassic Night at The Depot at Cleburne Station. But if you want to see and touch real dinosaur bones or watch as fresh fossils are cleaned and prepared, visit Southwestern Adventist University’s Dinosaur Museum and Research Center now to see the home of more than 40,000 fossils, one of the largest collections excavated from one location in the country, and the largest collection of dinosaur bones in North Texas.

Visit swau.edu/dinomuseum to schedule a museum tour, sign up for paleontology classes, attend family-friendly events, and watch their lecture series. If you can’t visit the museum in person, access the Dinosaur Museum and Research Center’s largest-in-the-world online database of dinosaur fossils, complete with photographs and maps of where they were found in the bone bed! Find it at https://fossil.swau.edu.