Festival a moon shot
Tressia Henry and Heather Johnson of Vandergrift are long-time friends that have been coming to the Apollo Moon Landing Celebrations for years.
Johnson kept up another tradition, too, trying her hand at the Birthday Game, where a coin on the name of a month and a roll of the dice decides the winner.
“I won the Steelers bear (Wednesday) night,” Johnson said. “I looked up and saw it and I said to myself, ‘That’s going home with me.'”
Johnson added, laughing: “I went to my car to get more money.”
Henry said the two friends have gone to the Moon Landing for at least 15 years. Now, Henry is bringing her son Jacob Fouse, 7.
“It’s strange because you don’t think about that then, that you’re going to be bringing your kids here,” Henry said.
After recovering from Monday’s sweltering temperatures, business has been steady at the Apollo Moon Landing Celebration all week.
“The heat definitely had an affect on Monday, but we’ve had good crowds,” said Bill Kerr, a board member for the celebration committee.
Tonight will feature fireworks dedicated to service men and women.
“We’ve done that the past few years,” said Thomas Coulter, chief of Apollo Volunteer Fire Department No. 2. “We’ve had a lot of local service men killed, so it feels appropriate.”
Those coming to see the fireworks should try to come early, Kerr said.
In the 1960s two residents — then Mayor Duane Guthrie and Charles Leidy, a tax collector — decided to promote the link between the borough’s name and NASA’s Apollo space program.
“So every five years when the nation celebrates the first moon landing, we already have this tied into the celebrations,” Kerr said.
Even the county bears a name link to Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, Kerr pointed out.
The festival also offers something nearby to do for those not traveling far this summer.
“I think a lot of folks that aren’t traveling because of gas prices,” Kerr said.
About 10 community and church groups are involved in the festival, along with local fire departments, said Dennis McCain Sr., committee chairman.
Carlie Copeland, 6, and her brother, Cameron, 8, wound their way through the Monkey Maze that culminates in a twisting slide.
“It was my first time,” Carlie said. “The slide was very fast and I like that.”
The face painting tent had more than 100 kids stop by to get temporary facial art on Wednesday, according to Jan Meighan, a board member for the Kiddie Korner Nursery School in Apollo, running the tent.
“The ‘sandy candy’ also is a big hit,” said Gina McDermott, a board member for the preschool.
Some of the most popular designs this year have been rainbow and cat faces along with Batman, Spiderman and camouflage.
“The 2- to 3-year-olds can’t sit still so you have to paint fast, but the older kids, you can take your time,” said Marquitta Guerrera, a teacher at the preschool.
Kiddie Korner will be holding raffles for Pirate tickets, Kennywood passes and gift certificates to local restaurants and family activities in addition to taking preschool registration.
Bill Swank, the owner of Swank’s Steel City Shows, said setting up his festival rides, games and concessions is like a homecoming for him.
“I was a fireman for Apollo Hose Co. No. 2,” Swank said. In fact, it was the fire department’s involvement in the annual festival that got him started in the festival business, 28 years ago.
At Apollo, Steel City provided 14 rides, 25 game booths and six food vendors.
There are 11 other tents belonging to various community groups and churches and four tents belonging to local fire departments, McCain said.