BECKLEY, W.Va. — An annual southern West Virginia tradition will come to an end with the close of this year’s Rocket Boys Festival in Raleigh County.
Homer Hickam, a former NASA engineer whose memoir “Rocket Boys” provided the basis for the movie “October Sky,” previously announced the 2019 edition of the festival will be his final regular appearance at the event, which started in McDowell County in 1999 and moved to Beckley in 2012.
Local organizers said it’s likely some incarnation of the festival will take place periodically, and that Hickam has left open the possibility of participating in future celebrations connected to the story of several high school friends in rural West Virginia who became amateur rocket builders in the 1950’s, eventually qualifying for the 1960 National Science Fair, at which their rocket designs won two medals in the category of propulsion.
Hickam, who went on to a career in aeronautics before becoming a best-selling author, will be at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine Saturday morning to meet with students from local high schools, and will take part in a “Storyteller’s Workshop” at Tamarack during the afternoon. Friday evening, he’ll appear in a production of Theatre West Virginia’s mini-musical “Homer, Elsie and Sonny” at Tamarack’s H.C. Theatre.
The fourth annual Rocket Launch Contest will take place Saturday at Exhibition Coal Mine, as part of a day-long series of activities.
This year’s festival will be dedicated to the memory of Quentin Wilson, one of the original Rocket Boys, who died in August.