SPRING HILL — It’s that time of year when folks are spring cleaning, tidying up their homes, yards and making repairs and painting their dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs? Well, at least around these parts.
As many know, Spring Hill is not your average community when it comes to dinosaurs. In fact, unlike a lot of little one-dinosaur towns, Spring Hill is a certified two-dinosaur town, with iconic monster reptile that houses Harold’s Auto Center on Commercial Way, and a piece down the road south there’s the famous pink dinosaur on the front lawn of Tree of Life Wellness Solutions.
When a reporter stopped by both locations to get the scoop on what it’s like to have your very own dinosaur and snap some photos, it turned out both of Spring Hill’s featured creatures are undergoing renovation—stucco work and new paint. Both dinosaur owners agreed to have their beasts photographed anyway.
Harold’s is an auto repair center. When the granddad, Harold Hurst, bought the place 42 years ago, his granddaughter, Brenda, was just a year old. As she got older and realized the family business operated out of a four-story Brontosaurus, she was tickled. Now known as Brenda Huckaby, she works there and her dad owns the business. Over the years, she’s seen tourists stopping for photos, and even entire tour busses stopping to take in one of the communities local wonders.
In 2014, Daniel Whitney, the comedian and actor known as Larry the Cable Guy, stopped in to film a segment for his TV show. He featured the Harold’s dinosaur in the segment, as well as his plunge into the Weeki Wachee spring wearing a mermaid tail.
Huckaby notes that the dinosaur was built in 1964, and was a Sinclair gas station, the oil company’s logo being a Brontosaurus-like dinosaur. It is concrete stucco over a steel armature, painted gray. Right now workers are patching it up around the tail section, where some of the stucco is cracking.
Huckaby said she’s gotten used to working out of a hollow dinosaur, and while a little of the novelty has worn off over the years, she keeps in mind that for many it is a unique sight and beloved landmark.
“My son thinks it’s cool that I work in a dinosaur,” she said.
Dana Hurst, Huckaby’s dad and shop owner, said the unique building is a great marketing tool and makes his shop stand out in the crowd. It also comes in handy when trying to give customers directions.
Hurst remembers how much Larry the Cable Guy liked the 105-feet-long, 47 feet high creature, which sports what look like a couple of huge taillights for eyes. Larry was in town to shoot a segment at Weeki Wachee, where he donned a tail and swam with the mermaids, when the crew spotted Harold’s on the road. A picture of the comedian with several Harold’s employees hangs on the office wall, along with assorted dinosaur-themed signs and photos.
Not 4 minutes on the road south is Spring Hill’s famous pink dinosaur. Mario Anzalone and Karen Martinelli are the business partners who own the Commercial Way building where the 22-feet-tall reptile stands guard out front. When the building was purchased in 2018, they didn’t realize the dinosaur came with it.
“I didn’t know we bought it with the building,” said Anzalone. “It was a pleasant surprise.”
The stucco dinosaur was created in 1962 by a local artist at the direction of Jacob Foxbower. Foxbower was a taxidermist and he wanted the reptile to draw attention to his roadside taxidermy exhibit, which featured oddities like a stuffed two-headed calf. Later, as the roadside attraction craze died out, he turned the place into a more mainstream museum of mounted animals. Foxbower was known for his exquisite bird mounts, some of which made their way into the Smithsonian museums. He passed away in 1988, at the age of 81, and the museum remained open until 1998. When it closed, the dinosaur remained.
Martinelli said the “Pepto Bismol” pink dino is getting some patching done, along with new paint. People climbing the stucco creature has taken a toll, she said.
It will stay pink, though the original was white. It’s been pink for many years and “that’s what people expect to see,” Martinelli said.
“We’ll go with a rose or a different shade,” she said, adding “anything but the Pepto Bismol pink.”
Anzalone, who has lived in Spring Hill for years, said his kids posed for photos with the dinosaur years ago, and he considers it a landmark that is his responsibility to maintain.
Martinelli said the dinosaur has drawn attention from far and wide, including being on the Pokémon Go map as a place players of the game can search for hidden game pieces.