A decade ago, Clayton & Sons Salvage co-owner Rodney Beaulieu was having a hard time directing people to his salvage yard on the south end of Charles Richard Beall Boulevard in DeBary, near the bridge into Seminole County. 

Beaulieu needed something that would get people’s attention. 

What better way than by installing a 20-foot-tall steel dinosaur? Beaulieu found one at a North Florida scrapyard. 

It worked, Beaulieu said. How could it not? It’s a big green dinosaur!

“I would talk to people, and they would say, ‘Where y’all at?’” he said. 

All Beaulieu had to reply was, “‘Look for the big dinosaur!’ and then they’d say ‘You’re the dinosaur guy!’”

The dinosaur’s name is Dino. He weighs hundreds of pounds and is typically decked out in an outfit reflecting the nearest holiday. As of Dec. 8, Dino was wearing his finest Christmas sweater and holding ornaments and a bell.

Dino has dressed as a turkey for Thanksgiving, donned red, white and blue for the Fourth of July, and even wore a dinosaur-sized mask and scrubs to promote COVID-19 safety. 

His many costumes are thanks to Rodney Beaulieu’s wife, Chai Lin. For the past five years, she has bought the fabric, spent the two or three hours it takes to cut it out and make a costume, and then gotten on a ladder to deck out Dino for all of West Volusia to see.

The costume-designing process used to be a group effort that included Clayton & Sons owners Rodney and Ronald Beaulieu’s mother, Alice Beaulieu. When Alice Beaulieu died in October 2020, Lin took over the tailoring.

Rodney Beaulieu said he is sure his mom would be happy with her daughter-in-law’s handiwork.

It’s not just the dinosaur that is a family affair; it’s the business, as well. Clayton & Sons was opened in 1972 by Alice and Clayton Beaulieu. Around the year 2000, their twin sons — Rodney and Ronald — took over.

BEACON PHOTO/NOAH HERTZ
DEBARY’S FAVORITE DINOSAUR — Members of the Clayton & Sons team pose for a photo with their friendly salvage-yard dinosaur. From left are Joseph Riera, Michael Losada, Chai Lin and Rodney Beaulieu.

The salvage business offers 14 acres of potential replacement parts — about 800 vehicles at the moment — and has a staff of eight. 

And, a dinosaur the community loves. Kids will stop and get pictures with the roadside reptile, Rodney said, and the shop even gets gifts addressed to Dino.

“He gets fan mail,” Rodney Beaulieu said. “People will mail gifts and bring in cookies.” 

Dino doesn’t eat cookies, but the Clayton & Sons staff enjoys them.

Dino is listed on the Roadside America website, which catalogs attractions and oddities around the country, and there’s even a Facebook page dedicated to the dinosaur. The Facebook page is not operated by Clayton & Sons staff, but Beaulieu said he’s flattered to see how much the community loves their eye-catching lizard. 

The staff members also love Dino, even if he gets more love than them sometimes. No meteor’s going to take Dino out, either. Rodney Beaulieu said he plans to keep the dinosaur as long as they keep the business.

If he has to go somewhere, Rodney said, he’d like to see him go to an elementary school, or the Boy Scouts. Maybe Dino could even be a school mascot someday. Think about it: The DeBary Elementary Dinosaurs has a pretty good ring.

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