After over a year of dealing with COVID-19, many people describe frustration in struggling with pandemic burnout, though there is one group that has found a fun, unique way of handling burnout and spreading smiles everywhere they go. That group is the Laingsburg Dinos and Friends – a group of roughly eight individuals who have become fast friends from their effort to reach out to others throughout these long months.

   So, how did Laingsburg Dinos and Friends come about? The story begins in March of 2020 with one person, Dena Judd, walking her dog in a dinosaur costume she had received as a gift. Judd’s costume is a T-Rex – and she had wanted the costume for quite awhile before being gifted with the ensemble. Having a costume and a dog, Judd decided to explore her neighborhood and before long, she was posting photos on social media of herself as T-Rex, which coincidentally connected her to Rebecca Noffke, who was also “dinoing” as a triceratops – just a couple blocks away. The two both live a short distance apart in Laingsburg.

   Once Judd and Noffke realized they both had this “dinoing” similarity, they enlisted help from other family members. Judd’s son, Michael, and her niece and mother are now active with the group. Noffke’s daughters, Cosette and Jasmine, both portray raptors and her husband does photography and videography because in taking their neighborhood walks, the women quickly realized the costumes made people smile. Passersby would honk and wave from cars and children were mesmerized.

   “We did not know each other at all,” Noffke shared. “We were both out randomly ‘dinoing’ … I tried to get my whole family on board. We went out a couple of times as a family just to play with the suits and I posted it on the Community Page on Facebook and people loved it.”

   “Initially, it was lots of horn honking and I would just wave,” Judd described her early dino efforts. “Then I thought, I’m really kind of making a lot of people out here smile by just walking my dog. It was fun.”

   Noffke said she found herself “really getting involved in playing with the cars. I would do a super stomp and pretend to charge the cars. Get really animated with them and play along.”

   Eventually the walks turned into random downtown Laingsburg visits, parades, events, parties and door-dashes. The first parade for the Laingsburg Dinos and Friends was the 2020 Senior Class parade last year, which was where the group first came together.

   Noffke explained the dinosaurs walked the entire parade. “We had bubbles to give out, which is kind of hard in the dino suit. Soon, we were doing dino things together and started scheduling going out. Even people that don’t see what we do on the Community Page have been responsive.”

   Noffke is a mental health therapist and Judd is a farmer who operates a small produce business with plans to soon open up a shop. She is also a city council member.

   Though there are several dinosaurs in the group, Michael is actually a clown and Judd’s mother is a ballerina hippo. Any friendly, fun costumes are welcome in Dinos and Friends – as long as the costumes bring on smiles.

   The group operates on a random basis and is free. “Some people have offered donations and we accept them, but we’re not asking for them,” Judd said.

   Laingsburg Dinos and Friends focus is on brightening somebody’s day.

   Anyone is invited to join in. Extra suits are available and are sanitized after every use.

  “We invite everyone to come play with us. If you can spend some time just playing and having fun, you forget what is going on in the world. Nobody is too young or too old to play,” shared Noffke.

   For more information, visit the Laingsburg Dinos and Friends Facebook page. The group wants to offer this last thought, “Everyone has something to contribute to make the world just a bit smiley-er. We’re Dinos and Friends … what’s your super power?”

Taking a Bite Out of Burnout, Dinosaur Group Spreads Smiles to All was last modified: May 4th, 2021 by Karen Elford