Libby and Robert Strong at the Show of Hands in October.

Couple Makes Strong Case for Dinosaur Project, Wins By a Head at Show of Hands

What do you call a T. rex who can’t accept defeat? … A “saur” — (sore!) — loser.

Well, that wasn’t the case for Robert and Libby Strong, proprietors of SMART Centre Market, who pitched their “dino-mite” project at Wheeling Heritage’s 18th Show of Hands crowd-sourcing event Wednesday at the Wheeling Artisan Center.

The couple made a strong case for their project — a tourist-attracting T. rex head protruding from their Centre Market building, along with additional signage. Beating out three other businesses, they lumbered away with a big check for $5,257.

SMART Centre Market wins the Wheeling Heritage Show of Hands competition

At the SMART Centre Market at 30 22nd St., Robert and Libby offer camps, ice cream, StarWatches and other events at the Center Wheeling shop. In fact, 17 free events are on their November calendar.

“I’m just absolutely thrilled,” Robert said, after their win Wednesday night. “We’ve been thinking about this for multiple years now, and we just couldn’t figure out how we were going to come up with $5,000 to make this happen. And this check is for $5,200-plus, which means that it is actually going to pay the amount plus the tax. It’s all going to work out just perfect.”

Why a T. rex?

“If it were a gentle dinosaur, it wouldn’t be breaking out of a second-story window,” Robert said. “So he needs to be a brutish sort of dinosaur. It needs to be a dinosaur that also kids really like. And when you sit down with a group of 20 kids, and you say, ‘what’s your favorite dinosaur?’ probably about 9 or 11 of them are going to go, ‘T. rex.’”

Enchanted Castle Studio in Natural Bridge, Virginia, owned by Mark Cline, is creating the lightweight fiberglass dinosaur that will burst out of the window on the SMART Centre Market’s second floor, Libby explained. Artist Amanda Carney of Cat’s Paw Art Studio, the February 2017 Show of Hand winner, whose business is also located in Center Wheeling, will be painting the faux window to which the T. rex will be attached.

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McClelland Signs will be doing the signage, Libby said. The project should be completed within a month or two.

“This is really exciting. … We don’t just want to do this for our business, but we’re hoping that this is going to bring more people down to the Centre Market area. We’re hoping that the tourism is going to increase. That’s going to be great for us, but it’s going to be great for everybody. That’s what we want,” Robert said.

Libby and Robert E. Strong make their pitch.

Other businesses making pitches for their projects before a crowd of about 300 at Wednesday’s event were the Blended Homestead, In The Mix Bakery and Rachel’s on 16th. Tuesday’s Weelunk story details all of the projects.

Prize money for the winner came from sponsors and from money collected at the door. Orrick is the event corporate sponsor, and Friends of Show of Hands include: Dave and Beth Weaver, Wheeling Volkswagen and Subaru; Dr. and Mrs. Dan and Debbie Joseph — Joseph Orthodontics; Brian Joseph — Touchstone Research Laboratory; Fuzz and Barb LaRue; H. Lawrence Jones; Kennen & Kennen Realtors; Warwood Armature; Rabbi Joshua and Rebecca Lief; Bob Hitchman; and a private donor.

The winners with the Show of Hands committee.

Having spent nearly 38 years as reporter, bureau chief, lifestyles editor and managing editor at The Times Leader, and design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, Phyllis Sigal now serves as Weelunk’s managing editor. She lives in Wheeling with her husband Bruce Wheeler. Along with their two children, son-in-law and two grandchildren, food, wine, travel, theater and music are close to their hearts.