Edmonton's Mama T. Rex hopes to prey on pandemic blues

Giggles fill the air on a sunny afternoon in the south Edmonton community of Summerside, as a bright orange T. Rex shakes her tail at an impromptu sidewalk dance party.

The antics are courtesy of Mama T. Rex, otherwise known as Julie Armstrong.

“It’s just fun,” she said. “Who wouldn’t want to be a T. Rex?”

After years of coveting one of the goofy T. Rex costumes, Armstrong finally received one this past Christmas. She was waiting for the weather to improve to be able to wear it outside, which she finally did at the end of March. 

“I was sitting around after losing work and kids were out of school, and I felt I needed to change my mindset,” she said. “So I put it on, went outside, and shoveled the walkway. From there it just grew.”

Mama T. Rex was soon a sensation as photos and videos of her escapades were shared throughout the neighbourhood. Seeing how much joy she was able to provide in difficult times, Armstrong began taking regular dino walks every other afternoon. An outing for her, as much as for her neighbours.

After wanting a T. Rex costume for a while, Armstrong finally received one this past Christmas. (Kory Siegers/CBC)

“I’m a person who gets happy when other people are happy,” she said. “So why not go out there and dress as a T. Rex?”

Colette Gaultois and her six-year-old daughter, Emily, are big fans of Mama T. Rex and have been keeping a regular eye out for her.

They even created a special obstacle course in chalk in front of their home, and were delighted to witness T. Rex’s attempts to complete it. 

“She did frog jumps, but she had T. Rex arms so she couldn’t touch her toes,” Emily said with a giggle.

Everywhere the massive creature goes, families follow, at an appropriate distance.

“It’s been getting tougher and tougher on the kids, so it just adds a bit of more smiles and just some extra joy for sure,” Gaultois said. “It’s definitely the highlight of our week.”

As a busy mom, the walks give Armstrong a break from daily stresses and allow her to help spread a different kind of contagion during this pandemic.

“Sometimes I’ll just start walking and I’ll go for about six kilometres and just keep walking cause everyone’s smiles are contagious,” she said.

Everywhere Mama T.Rex goes, people follow, at an appropriate distance. (Kory Siegers/CBC)

Armstrong has lived in Summerside for nearly two years.

A naturally shy person, she said she’s not trying to draw attention to herself.

She figures she’s covered about 60 percent of the neighbourhood and wants to eventually cover every street.

People normally look forward to gatherings with friends, to birthday parties, to date nights, she said.

“Now what do we look forward to?” she asked. “How about walking down the street and one day you might see a T. Rex coming around the corner? That’s exciting. It gives me a reason to get up every day.”

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