A Pre-Historic Adventure!
Paradise Among the Dinosaurs
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday to Thursday
$10 Adults, $6 Children
The frigid long winters of Northern Ontario are where Paul and Serge Dupuis found their love for art and sculpture making. Every winter, the two young brothers would make ice sculptures of wildlife in front of their mother’s motel in Mattice, Ont.
Despite the cold temperatures experienced in Mattice, the ice sculptures would melt come (a very late) spring. To create something permanent and to honour Canada’s centennial in 1967, the brothers set out to build their first cement sculpture.
Today, that sculpture still stands in front of the motel that was once owned by their mother. Paul, 63, and Serge, 71, have since found their home in Morrisburg after moving there over 30 years ago with their late mother and brother, to live out their dream of keeping the family together and creating art in their own backyard.
“This is home,” said Paul Dupuis as he sat behind the counter of the entrance to Prehistoric World, which was once a two-car garage.
The late Keith Acres, a local real estate agent, helped find the 153-acre property in the early 1980s for the Dupuis family.
“It wasn’t as easy as just purchasing the property,” said Dupuis. “It was owned by an electric company but Keith convinced them to sell to the township so they would in turn sell it to us.”
The family owned and operated Prehistoric World opened in 1982 with 14 exhibits, many of which were still under construction.
It was a gamble for the Dupuis family as they used their life savings to get the operation off the ground.
Dupuis credits the community and guests for being understanding and supportive of their project, allowing them to continue to add exhibits to the park throughout the years.
Prehistoric World faced a new challenge in 1998 when the ice storm rolled through Eastern Ontario, blanketing the dinosaurs with sheets of ice. The heavy ice caused hundreds of Poplar trees to lose their branches and crash into the exhibits.
“The outside layer of the sculptures shattered, allowing water to seep in and freeze- which is no good for cement,” said Dupuis.
Dupuis went on to explain that he and his brother are still recovering from the ice storm 20 years later.
Despite the challenges of the ice storm and eventual passing of Paul and Serge’s mother and brother, Prehistoric World has continued to flourish as a family destination right in the Dupuis’ backyard with over 50 exhibits.
“We have the coolest backyard,” said Dupuis. “We never see it as work, but as a place to put our art for everyone to enjoy.”
Dupuis says he sees the attraction as more of a garden, with exhibits placed among the flowers and trees for guests to explore as they walk along the faded grey interlocking stone path.
The maintenance of the art created by Paul and Serge takes up most of their time. From repainting to repairing, the Dupius brothers always keep the exhibits in pristine condition almost as if they were built yesterday, when really, some are as old as 30 years.
“There is an intrinsic value to them, they represent a time and place," said Dupuis. “Although we fix them up, we don’t try to change them. After all, you wouldn’t go back and change a painting that’s been done for 20 years.”
Children come for the amazement of the dinosaurs while adults appreciate the time and technique used to create the sculptures.
It’s that unique mixture of art and science and detail and durability that has attracted thousands of families throughout the years to Prehistoric World to see the life sized dinosaurs.
Most guests are returning customers, who once attended when they were children and now attend with their children. Not only are they returning customers, but they’ve woven Prehistoric World into their annual traditions.
“We’ve seen everything from birthdays to family reunions here,” said Dupuis.
Although Prehistoric World is now serving its second generation of guests and even third generations, the Dupuis brothers are showing no signs of slowing down.
Dupuis says a lot of the stress of running the attraction is alleviated since he works alongside his brother, and more often than not, they’re on the same page about the direction they want to go.
“We know we have to scale back a bit, but we are always looking for ways to make our work easier and investing in new technology,” said Dupuis.
It is evident upon visiting Prehistoric World that countless hours and an endless amount of passion has been put into creating and sustaining this lifelong dream all shared by members of the Dupuis family.
“We always thought of it as a way to keep the family together, all doing something we love,” said Dupuis.
By: Andrew Reed 2017