Fossilmania XL: “40 Years and Extra Large”

Fossilmania is an annual event for fossil & paleontology enthusiasts in North Texas, and one of the longest running such shows in the entire state. Hosted by the Dallas Paleontological Society (DPS), fans & vendors gather in Glen Rose to trade & sell fossils and related paraphernalia. DPS organizes the many activities that take place throughout the weekend as well, from guests speakers, raffles, and a kids area in the convention center, to various field trips to view & collect local fossils. 2022 marks the 40th anniversary of Fossilmania, and for this “XL” event, I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines. I decided to volunteer for the first time myself so I could be in the center of the action!

I stayed at the Best Western directly across the street, which, while not as decked out at the famous “Dinosaur Hotel” Best Western in Denver Colorado, did have a decent amount of paleo paraphernalia, included a Vintage Paleoart gallery!

DPS wanted to go “extra large” for this special occasion, and opened up the event to any extra vendors who wanted to set up stalls in the parking lot, as we had maxed out the space inside the Somerville County Exposition Hall. Unfortunately, a rainy Friday seemed to scare away the outdoor vendors from the rest of the weekend, but inside was as busy as ever!

The official Dallas Paleo Society table.
Various fossil vendors.

Fossil & mineral collectors had all sorts of captivating items for sale, and a few people were selling other paraphernelia such as toys and books as well. I found myself visiting Jamie Lynn Shelton of Fossil-Quest the most, who was one of the few focusing more on paleoart and paraphernalia rather than fossils themselves. In addition to fossil ID guides, she creates fun fossil replica jewelry & headbands, as well as some lovely minimalist paleoart. I ended up taking one of her ammonite drawings home with me. (I had actually meant to buy it a week earlier when I first ran into her at the smaller Hillsboro Fossil & Mineral show. It was at Hillsboro that I had also met up & coming local paleoartist Grace Designs Studio, who goes by TheGraceArtShop on Etsy, though she sadly didn’t make it to Fossilmania.)

The Fossil-Quest stall, and my purchase in its new home!
There were a few other stalls that had some toys and art in addition to fossils. While I’m not much of a Papo fan, I did end up buying that eurypterid model!

DPS members Joe & Estee have been running the children’s outreach wing of the organization, known as the PIT Crew, for some time, and they’ve always made sure to make the event a fun one for kids. They had several activities set up in one corner of the event center, including a dig pit where you could find and keep real fossils originally collected from the Mineral Wells Fossil Park, as well as various trivia games and a pair of Coelophysis from Billings Productions for photo ops. At their invitation, I debuted my dinosaur phylogeny chart for the first time, which I am told was one of the big hits of the event!

I somehow neglected to get good pics of the overall kids area, but here’s a few snippets. Check out my review of Dinosaur Valley State Park for a glimpse of some of the activities from previous Fossilmania events.

As ever, DPS member Tom Dill organized several field trips to local points of interest. The main attraction is of course the nearby Dinosaur Valley State Park, which preserves the world famous Paluxy River dinosaur tracks originally studied by Roland T. Bird. Glen Kuban, the man perhaps most involved with the current study & upkeep of the tracks, often comes along to discuss them along with Tom, though he was taking a break this year after working hard to catalogue the rarely-seen trackway that had been briefly exposed by the recent drought. A recent interview he did with YouTuber Aron Ra discusses these tracks, which actually belong to a different layer than most of the other tracks in the park.

A shot from the Dinosaur Valley State Park DPS field trip. Check out my review of the state park itself for a picture from a year when it wasn’t as wet!

While the Dinosaur Valley presentation is the can’t-miss activity of the weekend, a smaller field trip to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is also worth trying to get into, although since this trip takes visitors to a behind-the-scenes area of the safari park, the park staff limits the available spaces for this one. A bluff on the backside of the park has a rich exposure of a prehistoric reef, and participants of this tour get to take home up to two of any fossils they find! This isn’t too hard, since the entire ground here is practically make of “Devil’s Toenails” (or Gryphaea) shells (which some of my readers may remember were mentioned in Dinosaur Lady), though committed hunters can find other interesting fossils as well. Fossils which our guide referred to as “Elephant Ears” (I forget the proper name) seemed to be the second most common find, with various more symmetrical clams and the occasional ammonite being the bigger prizes.

The staff at Fossil Rim describing the site and the fossils one can find in the area.
I’ve got the Devil’s toenails!

DPS also arranges for guest speakers to give presentations at Fossilmania, though they consistently seemed to be scheduled for times overlapping with the field trips, so I didn’t get to hear any of them this time. Door prizes and raffle tickets are handed out throughout the day, and my boys each managed to win a few fossils with their tickets this way. Combined with their finds at Fossil Rim, they were pretty pleased with what they got to take home!

Calling out the raffle winners in the main expo hall.

I’ve enjoyed coming to this event for the past few years, and I felt privileged to finally participate a little more directly with it. I look forward to seeing it grow even more in the coming years, and I hope it starts to attract patrons from even further afield! I thank my wife for giving up her weekend to make it possible for me to commit more time to this, and I congratulate everyone who helped make Fossilmania XL a success!

For some more reviews of paleontology-themed attractions in North Texas, check out my posts on the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, the Texas Through Time museum, the Whiteside Museum of Natural History, the SWAU Dinosaur Science Museum, the Mayborn Museum, the Heard Natural Science Museum, and even the pseudoscientific Institute for Creation Research Discovery Center.

If you’re new to my blog, book reviews are more my bread & butter, and some that you might find interesting include Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline, Daring to Dig, Unnatural Selection, Fossils For Kids, and The Coloring Book of (Scientifically Accurate) Paleofauna. Happy Reading!

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