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Great Lakes Aquarium holds annual 'Scarium at the Aquarium'

Dressed as his grandfather, 13-month-old Hudson Maniak accepts a treat from Great Lakes Aquarium volunteers Elle Westrum (left) and Erin Christensen during Scarium at the Aquarium Sunday. Steve Kuchera /

Thousands of kids and parents donned their superhero, princess and pirate costumes for the Scarium at the Aquarium Sunday, the Great Lakes Aquarium's annual Halloween celebration and its largest event of the year.

Attendees could tour all the regular exhibits — like touching jellyfish or the hands-on Soo Locks demonstration pool — in between trick-or-treating, playing games, joining the dance party or watching the aquarium's scuba divers dressed as Darth Vader and Yoda, characters from "Star Wars," having an underwater lightsaber fight.

Visitors to the Scarium at the Aquarium event Sunday gather around Bryan Bongey, dressed as an Azhdarchid. But environmental educator and aquarium volunteer Bryan Bongey's homemade costume — an almost 9-foot-tall replica of a prehistoric flying reptile — towered above the rest.

"What type of bird are you?" asked a girl dressed in a blue princess dress.

"I'm not a bird, I'm a pterosaur — a flying reptile from the time of the dinosaurs," said Bongey.

For Bongey, his azhdarchid pterosaur costume serves as an educational tool at the Scarium and other events.

"You have the huge, dramatic costume and people are impressed by it," Bongey said standing behind a table with books, timelines and information on the pterosaur. "They go up to you to find out what it is, and then, when you've got their interest, you teach them something about a really interesting, actual creature."

That's exactly what Danielle Tikalsky, event coordinator for the Great Lakes Aquarium, wants the Scarium at the Aquarium to be about.

"To come in and learn, but also have the fun side of everything," Tikalsky said.

The aquarium has held the event for several years and this year, costumed attendees were lined up outside well before the 10 a.m. start time.

Halfway through the event Sunday, the aquarium already had more than 1,000 visitors and used the help of almost 90 volunteers to pull off the event.

"It grows every year," Tikalsky said.

Jimmy Lovrien

Jimmy Lovrien is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He spent the summer of 2015 as an intern for the Duluth News Tribune and was hired full time in October 2017 as a reporter for the Weekly Observer. He also reported for the Lake County News-Chronicle in 2017-18. Lovrien grew up in Alexandria, Minn., but moved to Duluth in 2013 to attend The College of St. Scholastica. Lovrien graduated from St. Scholastica in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He also spent a summer studying journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

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