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.