Saturday marked a major day in the journey towards opening the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum.
Dignitaries took part in the official ribbon cutting for the $30 million project, which is now expected to open next spring.
A week of events was held with Dan Aykroyd’s family and friends, who Wembley Mayor Chris Turnmire says have helped put the project and the region on the map internationally.
“Tourism, certainly this will become a destination point, and not just for Grande Prairie, but for the whole area because people might stop in a few days, see some things they wouldn’t normally come and visit.”
While it may take a few years,Turnmire expects to see more growth and development around the 41,000 square foot facility once it opens.
Grande Prairie – Wapiti MLA Wayne Drysdale echoed that sentiment, adding he’ll be working to try and get some more grant money for the project, as its opening has been delayed as not enough has been raised for the displays.
“We’ve always had strong agriculture, strong forestry, strong oil and gas, and now we’re going to have strong tourism; so we’ll have the four economic pillars. Without something major like this to attract this, tourism was pretty weak.”
Several celebrities made the trip to Grande Prairie for a dig at the Pipestone Creek bone bed and the Amber Ball.
Paul Mitchell Hair Products co-found John Paul DeJoria flew in from California for the week, and enjoyed himself digging at the bone bed, where his wife Eloise found the largest bone of the day.
“I helped uncover a shoulder bone and part of a spine; it was very, very exciting. So we’re here, and not only that, we’re going to tell the world about via Paul Mitchell Hair Care and Patron. We’re going to put it on our websites and let everybody know this is a really cool place to come to.”
The DeJorias are good friends of Dan and Donna Aykroyd, who convinced them to come up for a dig, and say they’ll be making a sizeable donation to the museum.
Also pulling out his wallet is entrepreneur Brett Wilson, who shares the same July first birthday as Dan Aykroyd.
He says he was interested in the facility that’s going to make the region an even stronger tourism destination.
“I didn’t make it out to the dinosaur dig, but I was at the new museum for opening, and wow! That’s a first class, world class building. As an Albertan and western Canadian, I’m pretty proud of seeing infrastructure built. That’s a big part of while I’ll probably leave a cheque here.”
Wilson also says he’ll be back when the museum finally opens.
Also among the distinguished guests at the Amber Ball was Lorie Karnath, the 37th president of the Explorers Club and the co-founder of the Explorers Museum based in Ireland.
She explains that it’s the museum’s mandate to establish and protect the heritage of explorers and their accomplishments, making it important for her to recognize the work of Dr. Philip Currie and his wife Dr. Eva Koppelhus as paleontologists.
“I love what you’re doing to help protect this amazing heritage that you have here, so I had to come back when they were saying that the museum was actually coming to fruition, and we have tried to support the museum in many ways along the way.”
Dr. Currie was presented the Explorers Medal while Karnath was president.
He spoke at the ball Saturday night, along with the Aykroyds.
The crowd of 1,000 dined on a five course meal provided by the Pomeroy Hotel, and enjoyed entertainment by The Tenors, and Estelle, who were joined by Dan Aykroyd for a few songs that got the audience on their feet.
Photos of the star-studded event are below: