Dinosaurs in mid-Missouri bring people from across the country
CENTRALIA - Larry Vennard's yard is very different from his neighbors, or most people's for that matter. His yard is full of dinosaurs.
Vennard is an artist who lives outside of Centralia, on Highway T. He has built dinosaurs, warriors and other fantasy creatures out of scrap metal. He even has warriors protecting his yard from a T-Rex.
Vennard started building scrap metal sculptures after he quit work building ornamental iron railings.
"Three states, really stressed out, running three trucks, and I just got too stressed out, so I just started cutting steel instead," he said.
Vennard also continued to weld after a doctor told him he could not do it anymore because of a car accident. Some 25 dinosaurs later, he said he does not regret his decision.
His idea of building dinosaurs come in a moment of epiphany.
"Just one day, I was looking around and I seen the head of my T-Rex, the silage blower snout, and I said 'Man that looks like a dinosaur head.'"
Before long, people wanted to help with his sculptures.
"I would come home and there would just be piles in my driveway where people had just piled up whole truck loads of steel and dump them right in my driveway," Vennard said.
He said the toughest sculpture he built was a triceratops because it was difficult to give life to a 500 gallon oil barrel.
Scott Stone, who lives down the road from Vennard, said his children get excited about the sculptures.
"Some years they put Christmas lights on them, which makes them really unique, and sometimes they're, like, chasing lights, so it looks like the dinosaurs are actually eating things. And that's really cool," he said.
Vennard said he's had people travel from several states to see his creations.
Stone said he sees people stop in the road to look at Vennard's artwork, and he can tell when there are new people in town.
"They'll come flying down the road then they'll just stop in front of our house and then back up so that they can look at the dinosaurs," he said.
Stone said sometimes they do more than look.
"Now that people have cameras on their phones, they'll like get out and take pictures and then crawl in their car and then take off like they don't want anybody to know they just did it."
Vennard said he does not make new sculptures now, but insists the ones he has will stick around.
"I want to leave this out here, I don't want to sell it, you know? I'm kind of in a situation where I'm not producing a lot of artwork anymore, I'm just kind of running on what I got," he said.
Vennard said keeping the sculptures is about more than him.
"If I was to get rid of it, you know, or move it, or whatever, it would really disappoint a lot of kids," he said.