Prior to campus closing for the school year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Patti Soiseth, Rufus Keaton and Gloria Lujan were well-known at Turlock High School for their many shenanigans, whether it was dressing up as bushes to scare students, leaving fake spiders on each other’s desks or playing pranks on the office staff with a toy rat or two.
These days, however, the three campus supervisors are spreading laughter and joy throughout the entire city from a distance. No longer armed with their trusty walkie-talkies and golf carts, the trio can be found dancing throughout neighborhoods disguised as dinosaurs, boombox in claw.
The inflatable T-Rex costumes have become a hit on social media in recent years, and Lujan said she always knew she wanted to find a reason to wear one. When she brought up the idea of wearing the costumes to visit community members outside of their houses during the pandemic, Soiseth and Keaton were on board.
“We just thought we should do it now because there’s never been a better time to spread cheer,” Lujan said. “Everyone comes out and is taking pictures and the kids look so happy when they see us...Everyone really enjoys coming out to see us walk around and act stupid.”
When the dancing dinosaurs first began surprising their coworkers, they focused on houses they knew had children or those who lived alone. Early performances featured rousing routines to coronavirus-related lyrics, like “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by The Police, but now the team gets groovy to Pharell Williams’ feel-good anthem “Happy.”
Households that have been graced by the dinosaurs’ presence have taken to uploading videos and pictures to social media, making the prehistoric performers somewhat of an internet sensation in recent weeks. Now, they’re flooded with requests to visit different locations, Keaton said, and on Friday even made a visit to the El Rio Memory Care Community in Modesto.
“When it hit Facebook, it kinda took off,” Keaton laughed. “As long as people keep asking, we’ll keep doing it. We’re having fun.”
The campus supervisors find time to embrace their dancing dinosaur alter egos in between handing out meals to Turlock Unified School District students. The shutdowns have been hard on the campus community and being able to make people smile during the pandemic is one of their main goals.
“I’m very social, so this all has been very hard for me,” Soiseth said. “With this, I can go dance for my grandkids then call them later and tell them it was me. It actually brings me a great sense of relief to get out there and see things are still kind of normal.”
“For me, I just think about how I would feel if I looked at someone randomly dancing in a dinosaur costume. That’s amazing. And funny,” Lujan added. “It would make my day, so if I can bring that to someone else then I’m all for it.”
The dancing dinosaurs have considered taking their act to a more public location one of these days, like the corner of Geer Road and Monte Vista Avenue, so that those engaged in essential duties can enjoy the show as well. Until then, they’ll continue helping those stuck at home make the best of the situation thanks to their impromptu performances.
“People who know us know that our motto is ‘give the people what they want,’” Keaton said. “That’s just what we’re doing.”