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Wednesday January 10, 2018

Sorry, dinosaurs.  You aren't the only ancient giants worthy of our attention.  On Saturday, January 20 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Virginia Museum of Natural History will host the Ice Age festival, featuring life-size displays of some of the most iconic animals to roam the earth thousands of years ago during the last Ice Age.

Mammoths and mastodons have become icons of the Ice Age, but many people are unaware that these creatures had an even larger relative called Stegodon.  This giant of the Ice Age grew to over 12 feet in height and over 26 feet in length, including 10 foot long tusks.

During the Ice Age festival, the Virginia Museum of Natural History will debut a life-size cast skeleton of this mega-creature and other displays that depict the seemingly mythical creatures that roamed earth over 12,000 years ago.  Stegodon will be on exhibit through February 2018 in conjunction with the museum’s permanent exhibit, "Ice Age".

“For the past two years, visitors to the museum have been able to view our ‘Ice Age’ exhibit, including an elaborate scene of Smilodon (saber-toothed cat) feeding on the remnants of a muskox,” said Zach Ryder, marketing and public relations manager at the museum. “The Stegodon display will give visitors an even greater appreciation of the size and magnitude of the animal life here on earth thousands of years ago.”

In addition to Stegodon, the museum will debut additional cast skeletons that will become permanent displays within the museum's "Ice Age" exhibit, including an Ice Age wolf.

"This particular wolf had a broader chest than wolves today, but otherwise it was very similar to today's wolves," said Ryder.  "The cast includes exquisite details, including signs of a tooth abscess that likely ultimately doomed the animal."

The museum also plans to display some of its taxidermy animal mounts depicting animals that lived during the Ice Age, but also live today in colder climates.

"The museum has an amazing polar bear mount that we're really excited to bring out for this festival," said Ryder.  "Other mounts will include animals, such as a muskox and arctic fox.  While many of the iconic animals of the Ice Age are long since extinct, such as mammoths and saber-toothed cats, many types of animals that lived thousands of years ago still live happily today."

Vistiors to the festival won't just be greeted with mounts and casts.  Actual Ice Age fossils will be on display throughout the event for visitors to view and, in some cases, handle.

"One of the wonderful parts of museum festivals is that we're able to bring out the real thing for our visitors," said Ryder.  "The massive Stegodon cast skeleton and the life-like recreation of a giant ground sloth, which stands well over 7 feet tall, will be awe-inspiring for visitors, but to additionally be able to view and handle actual specimens from thousands of years ago really allows for a unique experience that won't soon be forgotten."

In addition to the museum's specimens, the festival will feature stations and presentations provided by Appalachian State University, East Tennessee State University, The York Museum and the North Carolina Fossil Club.

"We're extremely grateful to have our friends from across the region participate in this event and give our visitors an even richer experience, with additional fossils to see, activities to participate in, and expertise to learn from," said Ryder.

One of the staples of museum festivals is a variety of children and family activities, which the Ice Age festival will also offer.  A virtual reality experience will be provided by U.S. Cellular, while an animal balloon artist will also be on hand.  Museum educators and volunteers will also offer games and crafts throughout the event.

Food and drinks will be available for purchase inside the museum's PALEO Café, while souvenirs will be available for purchase inside the Museum Store.

Admission is $7 for ages 19-59 and $5 for ages 3-18 and seniors 60+.  Admission is free for children under 3, museum members and members of ASTC institutions.

The Ice Age festival is sponsored by U.S. Cellular, Bassett Furniture, Boxley, the Patterson Trust, and the Hermes Family Foundation.

For more information, visit www.vmnh.net/ice-age-festival.


Tags: Festivals, Museums, Virginia Museum of Natural History