Thanks to the resilient spirit of this struggling business owner, Michiganders are dressing up as dinosaurs and polar bears to spread cheer during the pandemic.

FERNDALE, MICHIGAN — People love pets. And lots of people who love their pets take them to All American Pet Resorts Lakeshore. The super-accessible location feels super-exclusive for the most pampered pooch in your life.

At least, that was Sarah Ignash’s mission before the coronavirus hit. The Michigan small business owner laid off her 13 staffers and shuttered her doors for the foreseeable future.

Then she came across an idea she wanted to share with her Ferndale, Michigan, community. 

“I read an article about some adults in another state who started walking their neighborhood in t-rex costumes to cheer up the kids stuck at home.”

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Ignash already owned a t-rex costume herself. One false Facebook start later, and plan began to take shape.

“In under two hours, we had almost 200 people who were interested in the event,” she tells The ‘Gander. “And that’s when I had to cancel it. Because it was getting out of hand.”

With some restructuring and help from Ferndale’s Elks Lodge #1558, the secret parade was born.

“I think a lot of people think the Elks is just a bunch of old men. That’s not the case. It’s a very young, diverse organization in Ferndale,” Ignash says.

The members began purchasing their own inflatable t-rex costumes to create a Ferndale parade like the ones online. What started with five to eight inflatables has grown to over 20 characters stretching the length of an entire block.

The secret walks are mostly for Elks members, but they have started to take in lonely Michigan characters, like an anonymous woman from a neighboring suburb.

“She was just a lone t-rex walking around Hazel Park,” Ignash says. The group also adopted a penguin and polar bear that were known to roam Ferndale’s streets.

“The community reaction was very positive on Facebook,” says Oscar Renautt, public relations liaison for the Elks. “And Elk participation went beyond walking in the parade.”

Another Elk member is an artist and created a coloring page depicting the t-rex and friends walks. Children throughout the area have dropped off their completed artwork for the Elks to display in the lodge windows.

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The social group is seeing as much internal comradery as they are in their community.

“I love that it’s bringing the Elks together too,” Ignash says. “It’s brought a lot of attention to an absolutely wonderful organization that provides scholarships to students, meals for the needy during holidays. We also raise money for first responders.”

Weather and wind are the most important determining factors when scheduling a secret parade in an inflatable costume. The wrong conditions could blow a polar bear clear across Woodward.

But on a clear day, keep your eyes opened for Ferndale’s t-rex parade brigade. And thanks to stay at home orders expiring at the end of the month, All American Pet Resorts Lakeshore is scheduled to reopen on May 28.