When Laurence Taylor was a kid, he daydreamed of meeting a dinosaur under a pine tree.
He will be making that experience a close reality for Tauranga's young prehistoric fans from this time next week with DinoFest, an up-close-and-personal experience with dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures that once roamed New Zealand.
Taylor's company is Eventosaurus which has teamed up with Sydenham Botanic Park Trust (in partnership with the Tauranga City Council) to bring the event to the Brookfield park.
Taylor, from Auckland, collected fossils when he was a child and was dinosaur-mad. The Auckland Botanic Gardens volunteer says a trip to the South Island gave him the idea for DinoFest. The landscape reminded him of a time when dinosaurs roamed.
"You find a lot of kids ages 3 to 6 get bitten by the dinosaur bug. I have had two daughters as well ... I wanted to make this dinosaur experience as real as possible for these little kids."
He sourced the "dinosaurs" from the United States and China. He has a meaty collection of realistic creatures complete with sound effects. The costumes are heavy, cumbersome, hence realistic.
Taylor says the fossil records exist in New Zealand and rather than just doing an exhibition of a random selection of dinosaurs, he made it relevant to New Zealanders with a dinosaur community from around the country.
His Jurassic creatures include the meat-eating Tyrannosaurus rex, Compsognathus, giant plant-eating Titanosaurus and Allosaurus.
DinoFest has done more than 100 shows across the country in under than two years. The shows include kids' palaeontology-related activities such as fake tattoos, plate rubbing, sieving for real fossil shark teeth, as well as a dinosaur encounter which includes some storytelling and a mini Jurassic trial.
"We tell the story of Gondwana, the ancient supercontinent that once included the land that is now New Zealand," Taylor says.
The park was selected as a DinoFest venue for its trees.
Sydenham Park Trust chairman Brian Hodge says the park contains kauri trees from all over the world. He is pleased Taylor has chosen to hold the event here.
"It's a nice opportunity to attract new people to the park and find out a bit of its history."
The land was gifted to Tauranga residents by the late Frank Sydenham who was a horticulturist. Taylor says the kauri trees and cycads in the park are the "perfect setting, with the ancient bush making an excellent prehistoric dinosaur trail".
DinoFest will open from January 25 to 28 in three hour-long sessions on each day, starting at 10.30am, 1pm and 3pm.
Dinosaurs at Sydenham Botanic Park
Next to Brookfield School
Tickets Eventfinda $10 per person (under two free)