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Landmark roadside attraction in Spring Hill gets a makeover

SPRING HILL — The makeover artists finished their house call last week. After all, when you're a 58-foot-long, 22-foot-tall concrete dinosaur, going to a salon is not an option.

And at age 53, almost anyone, or anything, can use a little work.

The refreshed roadside reptile has long been known as "the other dinosaur," posed along Commercial Way just north of Spring Hill Drive. It is a smallish relative of "the pink dinosaur," the 55-year-old 110- by 47-foot behemoth that houses Harold's Auto Center farther north along the highway, near the entrance to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

The youngster, a brontosaurus-stegosaurus mutant, now wears a pink skin as well, specifically bubblegum pink, an appropriate hue since it marks the entrance to the everything-sweet Fudge Factory.

Owner Al Madden, who opened the confectionery earlier this year, said a bite out of the golden-aged monster's tail required a graft. Its mildew-laden, once-white hide needed a scrub and refresher. His inquiry to historical society officials couldn't determine the beast's original color, so he simply chose "bubblegum."

Semiretired painting contractor Tom Rosati of Spring Hill took on the refurbishing project, which turned out to be monster sized.

"It was supposed to be a 1-2-3 job. It's up to 13," Rosati said as he sprayed on the final coat of paint last week.

"That section of tail that came apart? The rebar was showing," he said of the bite's depth.

He figured the unexpected cracks he found atop the dinosaur's neck and back allowed rainwater to seep in and flow into the tail, eventually wearing it away.

Rosati's inspection during pressure washing found additional, smaller deteriorated spots requiring patching across much of the body, a chore that consumed two weeks. Learning that the dinosaur's last refresher occurred in 1999, he shook his head.

"It was not a good mixture of concrete," he said.

After the repairs, Rosati applied a primer coat of paint, then a scattering of sand to blend with the original textured finish and, lastly, the final paint application, complete to hand-daubed toenails.

Madden figures when all the bills are in, the refit will cost him about $1,500.

"I didn't want people to think I owned it and wasn't doing anything to take care of it," he said.

As neighbors and passersby saw that the work was under way, Madden said, "I got lots of calls, people saying they're glad about it, they grew up with that as a child, it's so nice to know someone's taking care of it. One lady wrote that they always took visitors to take pictures of it when she was growing up."

Not everyone has befriended the dinosaur over the years. It was featured in the 1990 edition of the Encyclopedia of Bad Taste.

But the mammoth's beginning gives it some credence. It was built as a roadside come-on to the Foxbower Wildlife Museum, a gallery of taxidermy specimens that opened in 1962 as a tourist attraction, remaining in business until 1998.

The colossus is still doing its job.

"It gets a lot of visitors to stop and take pictures," Madden said. "Some come into the store."

In celebration of the dinosaur's makeover, the Fudge Factory has come up with a candy mold in the shape of a dinosaur. And it's introducing a new pink fudge recipe to fill it.

Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]

Landmark roadside attraction in Spring Hill gets a makeover 10/15/15 [Last modified: Thursday, October 15, 2015 10:04am]
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