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South Valley Journal

Dino-mite! Dueling dino decorators from SoJo/Riverton have fun with ‘community contribution’


Aug 06, 2019 01:08PM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

Jo Ann Koller of Riverton says the youngsters in her home select 80% of the themes for the Dino-decorating that she and her daughter Mindy do for the Sinclair Dino at one of the Riverton Holiday stores. (Jennifer J. Johnson/City Journals)


By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected] 

What do leprechauns, vampires and school buses have in common?

Well, if you are a self-appointed “artiste” looking to breathe some fun into a private corporate mascot that has evolved into almost a city landmark every month? The common denominator is a large, green, fiberglass dinosaur planted on the edge of Holiday Oil’s gas and convenience stores exclusively carrying the Sinclair brand of gasoline.

The addition of the “Sinclair” dinosaur (reverently referred to as “one of the most popular icons in American petroliana” by the Sinclair Oil Corp.) a few years ago spruced up Holiday Marts along the Wasatch Front.

Apatosaurus eye for the Dino guy

But some think the dinosaurs needed more bling and started grassroots decorating that brings smiles in communities such as Riverton, South Jordan, Draper and even in outlying Heber.

Jo Ann Koller and daughter Mindy Koller are the decorating brains and hands behind the Riverton Holiday’s Dino at 1327 West 12600 South. The mother-daughter duo, who both reside in Riverton, have dolled “Dino” up as Dracula for Halloween, “The Little Mermaid” for a timeless look and have their sights set on an astronaut theme in the future.

However, when it comes to who is “the boss” of the Dino-dressing matters? That clearly falls to the children in the house — 6-year-old Evany and 9-year-old Kaleb.

“The kids come up with the ideas 80% of the time,” said Jo Ann Koller. She said how much fun it is for the children to drive by the decorated Dino.

The joy is not limited to youth. Elderly and even the most difficult-to-intrigue audience imaginable—teenagers—are captivated by the work the two do.

“You are the highlight of my day,” a woman walking with her husband beset with Alzheimer’s disease tells Jo Ann and Mindy, while they work away on July’s Pioneer Day Dino.

While the duo was in the early stages of Dino-decorating for July, two teens on bikes stop in their tracks and ask, “What are you going to do this time?” The teenagers are seemingly genuinely interested and take the time to listen to the response.

Getting Dino with a little help from their friend

The Kollers may not be doing any Dino-decorating at all were it not for their friend, mentor and inspirista Sara Hepworth.

In the world of Dino-decorating, Hepworth may be the “all that and then some.”

Hepworth is the chief-designer-in-residence for the South Jordan Dino at the Holiday Oil located at 10400 S, 4000 W.

In March of 2018, Hepworth recruited the Kollers to join her in the somewhat rare suburban art of Dino-decorating. The two took the bait and now often collaborate with Hepworth.

Their first collaboration was a St. Patrick’s Day theme, with the SoJo Dino’s being dressed like a leprechaun and the Riverton Dino’s being an Irish Lassie. Hepworth tied the theme together by posting a sign: “Have you seen my girlfriend?”

Last summer, the dueling Dinos continued with SoJo Dino’s being dressed as a firefighter and Riverton Dino’s being a fire engine. For back-to-school last August, SoJo Dino was made up as “School Nerd” and Riverton Dino was a school bus.

Dino-mite: the designers’ and their public’s favorites

The school-bus theme was one of Jo Ann Koller’s favorite Dino-decorating experiences. After studying how school buses looked online, she used PVC pipe and swimming noodles to create the three-dimensional effect.

Mindy’s favorite is the Mermaid-themed Dino, which now decorates Riverton Dino’s Facebook page.

Her niece, Evany, is “really into mermaids—a lot of girls her age are,” said Mindy. Evany lobbied Jo Ann and Mindy to create “The Little Mermaid Dinosaur” and then showed incredible pride in the outcome. “That was my idea!” Mindy recalls Evany’s saying, to her friends and every time they would drive by the Mer-Dino.

All funds for Dino-decorating come from their own pockets, say the Kollers, who estimate they spend about $350 annually to brighten up Riverton residents’ lives. They have frugal fun shopping at Deseret Industries and the Dollar Store.

Sometimes, the community submits requests, such as the Grinch Dino during holiday season.

Sinclair also hosts contests for the best-decorated Dinos. Decorators post photos of their designs to a Sinclair site, where internet-goers can throw down for their favorite designs. “Sarah has won several times because she is in Daybreak and has quite a following,” said Jo Ann Koller.

This is true. SoJo Dino routinely gets more than 300 likes on Facebook posts, with cheerleading aplenty.

“His costumes just keep getting better and better,” posts Facebook supporter Wendy Stone of the elaborate bald-eagle design for SoJo Dino’s July “look.”