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Dragon visits Tustin school in anti-bullying campaign

TUSTIN – Students at Peters Canyon Elementary School were in for a surprise Wednesday morning when a life-size dragon stopped by the campus.

Fourth- and fifth-graders cheered as they welcomed Stinger, a large animatronic dragon, into the multipurpose room. The dragon sniffed around the audience before taking his place in the center of the room.

The anti-bullying assembly was organized by DreamWorks' "How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular," which is coming to the Honda Center this month. A number of hands went up when dragon trainer Hiccup the Viking, played by 19-year-old Riley Miner, asked if any of the students had been bullied.

He went on to explain that everyone is different, and that people can get along without bullying. Minor said he had been bullied as a child as well.

Click here to watch a video of the dragon's visit.

Kids get the message when adults explain why bullying is bad, said 11-year-old Alison Nesbitt, who said she'd experienced some bullying in earlier grades. Assemblies like this help, she said.

"Don't change your personality because people don't respect you," the fifth-grader said. Alison was one of the students chosen to help train Stinger. Her task was to toss a ball at the dragon, which kicked or head-butted it back to her.

Jake Huarte, 10, was surprised at the size of the dragon – measuring 10 feet tall and 17 feet long. He, like Alison, played catch with Stinger.

"It was bigger than I thought because (Miner) said, 'Littlest dragon.' That was a pretty big dragon for the littlest," Jake said.

Others, like fourth-grader Gracie Petrie, 9, ran up under Stinger's neck and reached up to scratch under his jaw.

"The dragon seemed so realistic," she said. A favorite was when Stinger sniffed the students, and bit the air near their faces. Many quickly scooted backward, afraid to get too close to the creature's mouth.

How did Gracie know it wasn't a real dragon?

"I saw the legs."

Contact the writer: 714-796-7949 or

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