Arts & Entertainment

Apollopalooza celebrates 50th anniversary of moon landing

One small step for man, one giant leap for Wings Over the Rockies

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For those who weren’t alive on the night of July 20 a half-century ago, it’s difficult to imagine what it must’ve been like to see men land on the moon for the first time. For the millions watching, it was an event that will never be forgotten.
 
Metro resident Stephen Kelly certainly didn’t. And when a little over a year-and-a-half ago he realized the landing’s 50th anniversary was nearing, he thought it was an occasion worth celebrating.
 
“I went to the management at the Wings Over the Rockies Museum, where I had volunteered for a long time, and mentioned to them this was coming,” Kelly said. “I thought it would be great if the museum could commemorate the event. Originally, I was thinking of a one-day event to celebrate. It’s really expanded since then.”
 
Apollopalooza will be held at the air and space museum, 7711 E. Academy Blvd. in Denver, from July 13 through 20. The event will feature everything from film screenings and Apollo veterans panels to a STEAM festival and career mingle.
 
“There are a lot of milestones that can be celebrated: Yuri Gagarin’s flight as the first human in space, Alan Shepard as the first American in space and Apollo 8. However, the Apollo 11 moon landing has the feel of a triumph that can be touched,” wrote Jessica Castellano, Wings Over the Rockies’ chief development officer, in an email interview. “We not only went to space, we touched it, walked on it, and came home. Nothing has been the same since that day, for our aerospace heroes and for our global citizens.”
 
One of the main goals was to offer an event of substance and without fluff, said Kelly, who chaired the committee that organized Apollopalooza.
 
Fortunately, education is a key part of Wings’ mission statement, and Denver is home to a burgeoning aerospace industry. National titans like Ball Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Sierra Nevada Corp. all call the state home.
 
“We have a great line-up in-store, including folks from the Colorado School of Mines and University of Colorado, who don’t just teach in these fields – they’re involved in current programs working to get people back on the moon,” Kelly explained. “We have a number of folks that were actually veterans of the Apollo program in one aspect or another, and these guys have some stories to tell.”
 
Some of the marquee names include Gene Kranz, NASA flight director for all Project Gemini missions, as well as Apollo 11. He also was the leader of the Apollo 13 “Tiger Team” (actor Ed Harris played him in Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13” film). Dr. Harrison H. Schmitt, an Apollo 17 astronaut and moonwalker, and Joe Engle, astronaut and X-15 pilot from Colorado Springs, are just a few other people who will be on hand.
 
There’s a lot of interactive and social events to be excited about, including a Launch Day Breakfast with Kranz on July 16, and a Moon Landing Viewing Party on July 20 that features a live band, dancers, barbecue dinner and themed costumes for the night, capped with a screening of the moon landing timed to the minute it happened 50 years ago.
 
Apollopalooza is an all-ages event, but students and millennials are being particularly catered to with events that exhibit education and career opportunities in related fields.
The STEAM For All Festival on July 14 is focused on community accessibility to aerospace and will feature workshops, activities and more. Because the event isn’t just about the past – it’s also a look to the future.
 
“After attending a full day, a lecture or just stopping by to see what all the fuss is about, we hope visitors come away with an amazing appreciation for the thousands of men and women who helped put the first men on the moon 50 years ago,” wrote Ben Theune, Wings’ director of marketing, in an email. “We hope guests leave with an excitement about the future of the space industry as a whole and a desire to follow our progress back to the moon in 2024 — and maybe to even get involved.”

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