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'A fantastic boost': Ekalaka prepping for 11th annual Dino Shindig

Dino Shindig
Posted at 3:05 PM, Jul 06, 2023

People from all around the world will be traveling to the small town of Ekalaka at the end of July for the 11th annual Dino Shindig.

This year's event, which is organized by the Carter County Museum, will take place on July 22 and 23. Its main goal is to give people the opportunity to be paleontologists for the day, digging at sites and making their own discoveries.

Museum Executive Director Sabre Moore helped arrange the first Shindig in 2013 as a recent college graduate of Montana State University. She said it was created so that the community could have a better understanding of what discoveries are being made near their town.

"The Shindig was founded on the premise that we would like to share what is happening with the paleontology finds in the community with the community," Moore said.

Moore

Moore was born and raised in Douglas, Wyoming. She said a big part of her reasoning for moving to Eklaka is how rewarding it felt to help with the first Shindig. That, and the outpouring of support from the community.

"Immediately, Eklaka was welcoming," Moore said. "They were excited to have me here and they trusted me with their history."

And the history is prevalent as soon as you walk into the doors of the museum. Practically all of the fossil displays found inside were found in southeastern Montana.

"Everything that you see in here is found within 100 miles of Ekalaka," Moore said as she gestured around the museum.

Fossil Collection at Carter County

December will mark Moore's seventh year as the Carter County Museum executive director. During her time, she has witnessed serious growth to the Dino Shindig, the museum's most famous event.

"It's really skyrocketed and what's fantastic is seeing the community get behind it and get excited about it," Moore said.

But it isn't just Moore that makes the event work. Gift Shop manager Patrick Rouane helps with the event every year as a site expert.

"Usually it's me, with a couple other volunteers, and I take them around and say, 'This is the site. This is the history of it. This is the stuff we've pulled out of it,'" Rouane said.

Rouane

Rouane said that nothing compares to when visitors make their first find.

"To see that light up in their eyes like, 'Oh yeah. This is fun,'" Rouane said. "That's the best part for me."

They cap the number of site explorers at 60 in an effort to preserve the sites the best they can. Those spots open up during a random time in January so that everyone has a fair chance to reserve their spot. Moore said that typically they sell out in less than five hours.

"It has become really popular and sells out fast," Moore said. "We like to keep it random so that everyone has a chance to get their spot."

While the site exploration is the big draw, many other events are held during the weekend. Moore said that during the first Shindig, about 200 people came to Ekalaka. In the past few years, she said that it has drawn close to 1,500 people into the area.

Fossils

"We fill every hotel spot, we fill every single camping spot," Moore said. "Restaurants stay open later, the grocery store stays open later. It's really a fantastic boost for the economy here."

Rouane said it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for visitors and one the museum is happy to provide to the 400-person town and beyond.

"We are becoming more influential, not only our community, but the surrounding communities," Rouane said. "We have a small museum look, but a big museum attitude."