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Hometown of Neil Armstrong ready to celebrate 50th anniversary of moon landing

Updated : 2019-07-10 12:21:13

A small Ohio city is shooting for the moon in celebrating its native son's history-making walk 50 years ago this month. The hometown of Neil Armstrong has expanded its usual weekend "summer moon festival" to 10 days of Apollo 11 commemorations. Tens of thousands of visitors — the biggest crowds here since Armstrong's post-mission homecoming — are expected. There will be hot air balloons, '60s-themed evenings, concerts, rocket launches and a visit from five other Ohio astronauts. And "the world's largest moon pie," all 50 pounds of it. Event planning began two years ago in a city of about 10,000 that has added nearly 3,000 residents since 1969 but retains that everybody-knows-everybody rural town feel. Jackie Martell of the chamber of commerce calls the moon landing anniversary an event that "just resonates for the entire world," and a continuing source of local pride. Armstrong was born Aug. 5, 1930, at his grandparents' farm just outside Wapakoneta. His family moved around Ohio before settling back at Wapakoneta for his high school years. Growing up some 60 miles (96.56 kilometers) north of the Dayton home of the aviation-pioneering Wright Brothers, young Neil was fascinated with airplanes from an early age, building models and hanging them up in his bedroom. As a teen in Wapakoneta, he used earnings from an after-school job at a drugstore to pay for flying lessons, pedaling his bicycle a few miles every day to an airfield to practice his skills. He made his first solo flight at age 16, 20 years before he went into space for the first time inside Gemini 8 for what became a harrowing mission that he survived to make history in 1969.

A portrait of astronaut Neil Armstrong stepping onto the surface of the moon is displayed behind museum director Dante Centuori, right, at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Neil Armstrong helped put Wapakoneta on the map on July 20, 1969, when he became the first human to walk on the moon. The late astronaut remains larger than life in the city 60 miles (96.56 kilometers) north of Dayton, where visitors are greeted by the space base-shaped top of the space museum named for him as they exit Interstate 75. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A portrait of astronaut Neil Armstrong stepping onto the surface of the moon is displayed behind museum director Dante Centuori, right, at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Neil Armstrong helped put Wapakoneta on the map on July 20, 1969, when he became the first human to walk on the moon. The late astronaut remains larger than life in the city 60 miles (96.56 kilometers) north of Dayton, where visitors are greeted by the space base-shaped top of the space museum named for him as they exit Interstate 75. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Visitors look on the Gemini VIII spaceship at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Very down to earth about most things, folks in this small western Ohio city are over the moon as they get ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the day they watched their hometown hero along with the world set foot on the moon. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Visitors look on the Gemini VIII spaceship at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Very down to earth about most things, folks in this small western Ohio city are over the moon as they get ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the day they watched their hometown hero along with the world set foot on the moon. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Visitors linger outside the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Visitors linger outside the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Henry Cook plays inside a Lunar Landing Simulator at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Henry Cook plays inside a Lunar Landing Simulator at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A moon rock is displayed within a glass case at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A moon rock is displayed within a glass case at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Patches adorn the spacesuit worm by astronaut Neil Armstrong for the Gemini VIII mission at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Patches adorn the spacesuit worm by astronaut Neil Armstrong for the Gemini VIII mission at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Visitors browse an exhibit featuring the Gemini VIII spacecraft at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Visitors browse an exhibit featuring the Gemini VIII spacecraft at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Dave Tangeman speaks of his memories of astronaut Neil Armstrongs famous Apollo 11 moon landing during an interview at his workplace, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Dave Tangeman speaks of his memories of astronaut Neil Armstrongs famous Apollo 11 moon landing during an interview at his workplace, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A workman prepares a display at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
A workman prepares a display at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Visitors stand before the spacesuit worn by astronaut Neil Armstrong that was used on his Gemini VIII mission at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Visitors stand before the spacesuit worn by astronaut Neil Armstrong that was used on his Gemini VIII mission at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
The boyhood home of astronaut Neil Armstrong is commemorated by a sign on its front yard, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
The boyhood home of astronaut Neil Armstrong is commemorated by a sign on its front yard, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
The front page of the Wapakoneta Daily News, dated Sept. 6, 1969, is photographed at the Auglaize County Public Library archives, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
The front page of the Wapakoneta Daily News, dated Sept. 6, 1969, is photographed at the Auglaize County Public Library archives, Wednesday, June 26, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Charles Brading, a druggist and personal friend of astronaut Neil Armstrong, checks the size and placing of a temporary sign addition proclaiming their local hero in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Neil Armstrong helped put Wapakoneta on the map on July 20, 1969, when he became the first human to walk on the moon. July 21, 1969. (AP Photo/GEH)
Charles Brading, a druggist and personal friend of astronaut Neil Armstrong, checks the size and placing of a temporary sign addition proclaiming their local hero in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Neil Armstrong helped put Wapakoneta on the map on July 20, 1969, when he became the first human to walk on the moon. July 21, 1969. (AP Photo/GEH)
People sit on the roof ledge of the Auglaize County Courthouse to cheer hometown hero Neil Armstrong waving to the crowd during a parade honoring him for his moon-walk feat. Also shown is his wife, Jan, and son, Eric, in the parade in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Sept. 6, 1969 (AP Photo)
People sit on the roof ledge of the Auglaize County Courthouse to cheer hometown hero Neil Armstrong waving to the crowd during a parade honoring him for his moon-walk feat. Also shown is his wife, Jan, and son, Eric, in the parade in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Sept. 6, 1969 (AP Photo)
People sit on the lawn of the home of Stephen Armstrong in Wapakoneta, Ohio, to watch astronaut Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. July 20, 1969. (AP Photo/Bill Sauro/FILE)
People sit on the lawn of the home of Stephen Armstrong in Wapakoneta, Ohio, to watch astronaut Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. July 20, 1969. (AP Photo/Bill Sauro/FILE)
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