NC ranch welcomes dinosaurs back for a second season
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — After debuting last summer, the dinosaurs at Sweet Valley Ranch are ready to wake from their slumbers.
Dinosaur World at Sweet Valley Ranch kicked off June 10. The attraction features animatronic dinosaurs with information and fun facts about each dinosaur for people to read as they walk through or take a shuttle. The ranch is located on more than 300 acres at 2990 Sunnyside School Road in Fayetteville.
Fred Surgeon, who owns the ranch with his wife Anita, said originally, the event was just going to feature dinosaur statues, but he later decided it would be better for them to be more lifelike. The animatronic dinosaurs at the attraction are custom-made and shipped from overseas.
Dinosaurs at the eight-acre attraction come in various sizes from the tallest standing at 14 feet tall and the smallest being about four feet tall.
According to Surgeon, 40,000 people attended the 2021 debut.
“I was blown away by the support that we received from the immediate community — Cumberland County, Moore, Robeson, Hoke — but what really impressed me in addition to that was we had folks come in from Raleigh, Charlotte, Virginia, Tennessee,” he said. “That was just really inspiring and kind of validated that we were on to something.”
Of the ranch’s seasonal attractions like its Halloween-themed Backwoods Terror Ranch or Tiny’s Corn Maze in the fall, Surgeon said Dinosaur World is the most popular. He estimates about 75,000 people will attend this year’s event.
Surgeon said there will be 25 dinosaurs added this year, bringing the total number to more than 50. There will also be an ice age exhibit that will include animatronics of extinct animals such as the wooly mammoth and the dodo bird.
Sweet Valley Ranch also added an iguana exhibit featuring more than 100 live iguanas.
“With the detail that we try to put into Dinosaur World, we certainly are stepping that up this year,” Surgeon said. “Folks that came out last year, we know they had a good time but there’s a reason for them to come back this year.”
Exploring Dinosaur World would take a little over an hour, Surgeon said but it could take even longer to see the new additional attractions.
According to the Surgeons, their ranch, purchased in 2016, began as a place for Anita to have a few horses and for Fred to have a few goats.
“We ended up, over a two-year period from 2016 to 2018, with all of these different animals,” Fred Surgeon said. “We actually have over 500 animals from five different continents.”
Anita Surgeon said she was initially taken aback when her husband said he wanted to add a dinosaur attraction, but she’s since grown to love it.
“I’m really amazed,” she said. “I’m enjoying it because we love having the people come out and see smiles on everyone’s faces.”
The couple hopes to continue to expand and add other attractions such as an African safari.
“It’s really kind of wide open,” she said. “It could just go anyway. We’re doing a little bit of everything where we’re opening up our farm and sharing it with people.”