The Van Wert County Courthouse

Friday, May. 29, 2020

Wapak to honor Armstrong, moon landing

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent writer

WAPAKONETA — Thousands of people are expected to head to Wapakoneta this month, including a number of local residents, to celebrate one of the most remarkable accomplishments known to mankind.

The Summer Moon Festival will take place in downtown Wapakoneta and at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum. photos provided

Wapakoneta, the hometown of Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong, will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Armstrong’s Apollo 11 moon trip in July 1969 with a 10-day celebration that begins Friday with two days of hot air balloon launches and a night glow at the Auglaize County Fairgrounds.

At 3 p.m. Saturday, WBGU-TV will premiere its First Steps: First on the Moon program, the story of Neil Armstrong’s youth in Wapakoneta, at the Wapakoneta Performing Arts Center. At 3 p.m. Sunday, the 50th anniversary parade will begin.

“We’ve really tried to make it a tribute to the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, his relationship with Wapakoneta and Auglaize County, and then, of course, his accomplishments with the Apollo 11 mission,” Committee Chair Rachel Barber explained. “Astronaut Don Thomas will be our grand marshal and Mike Mallory, who is a former Navy SEAL frogman who actually rescued Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins (from splashdown in the Pacific Ocean), will be in the parade as well.”

“It’s just going to be a wonderful, classy parade that we hope is a fitting tribute to Mr. Armstrong,” Barber added.

Other planned activities include ’60s Day at the WaterPark and Wapakoneta by Moonlight on Monday, July 15; a day of model rocket workshops and launches at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum and the Miss Summer Moon Pageant on Tuesday, July 16, and the Summer Moon Festival July 17-20 in downtown Wapakoneta and July 19-21 at the Armstrong Museum.

Wapakoneta is ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of native son Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to walk on the moon.

“On Friday, July 19, NASA will be broadcasting live from the lawn of the Armstrong Museum and we’ll have five astronauts visiting that weekend,” Barber said. “They’ll be speaking and I believe some of them will be participating in our 5K and 10K Run to the Moon.”

The museum itself is home to a number of artifacts, including the Gemini VIII spacecraft, Armstrong’s Gemini and Apollo spacesuits and a lunar sample. The museum also features two full-size aircraft and the Astro Theater, and visitors can practice landing the lunar module and space shuttle, experience simulated zero-gravity or dock the Gemini
capsule, just as Armstrong did in 1966.

Shuttle service between the museum and downtown Wapakoneta will be available on July 14, 19 and 20 and a special bus tour will be offered as well.

“The bus tour will highlight some of the existing buildings in the community that have an Armstrong connection,” Barber said. “It’s really great to have a tangible connection and to be able to say here’s his boyhood home, here’s where he went to school and church, here’s where his father worked and here’s where he worked to earn money for flight lessons.”

The celebration will close July 21 with a special Wink at the Moon concert at the Armstrong Museum.

For more information and a full schedule of events and times, visit or First on the Moon on Facebook.

POSTED: 07/11/19 at 7:12 am. FILED UNDER: News