John Mlecz, Owner of Petrified Creatures, Dead!
1997 was a grim year for dinosaur parks in the Northeast. Roadside America discovered that John Mlecz died in the Spring of 1997. Mlecz was the owner and curator of the Petrified Creatures Museum, in Richfield Springs, New York. Petrified Creatures was known for its brightly painted dinosaur sculptures, and "hands-on" fossil bed, where visitors could dig for their own prehistoric creatures. This news comes in the wake of the death of Carlton S. Nash at Nashional Dinoland.
We talked to Mlecz in 1996, while he was wintering in Palm Springs, FL. The attraction was doing fine at the time, opening each summer season and entertaining local school groups, and tourists on their way to the Baseball Hall of Fame or the Cardiff Giant in Cooperstown. It was promoted as "New York's Internationally Known Petrified Creatures Museum of Natural History."
On a previous visit, Mlecz had groused to us about the less-than-serious treatment his dayglow dinos had received at the hands of some OTHER travel writers. And the name "Petrified Creatures" seemed to occasionally attract the wrong crowd. Crank calls to Petrified Creatures sometimes became a problem, especially after hours, when the local bars closed.
John was most pleased when visitors spent time examining his fossil collection, or digging in the fossil pit, rather than giggling over near the Iguanodon.
Petrified Creatures had been a tourism fixture along Scenic US 20 for many years before Mlecz bought it. But time was not kind to the dinosaurs, nor was the interstate, which bypassed this old route to Niagara Falls. Along with the Tepee in Cherry Valley, PG had hung on long after most of the cabin motels had been abandoned.
We salute Mr. Mlecz. Along with many travelers, we appreciated his efforts and stick-to-itiveness to an attraction with a great name.
The museum is now run by his wife, Stella, who operates a real estate office out of the same building that houses the gift shop. The mortgage on the property is for sale, and along with it, the directorship and control of the nonprofit organization of Petrified Creatures.[09/28/1997]