The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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May 11, 2012

Rocket Boys October Sky Festival finds new home in Beckley

Event to be held in conjunction with Chili Night weekend Oct. 5-7

The Rocket Boys are coming back this October!  

The annual Rocket Boys/October Sky Festival, traditionally held on the first weekend of October each year in Coalwood, is relocating in 2012 to Beckley, after reluctantly being canceled earlier this year by the all-volunteer group who had presented the event in the past due to a lack of local able-bodied volunteers.

“We are thrilled that this great event that brings so much excitement and so many people to Southern West Virginia will continue with new blood,” said Carol Dehaven of Coalwood, one of many local residents who had spearheaded the festival in the Rocket Boys hometown.

After the cancellation of the Rocket Boys/October Sky Festival was announced in February this year, Hickam was approached by a group of concerned Raleigh County citizens to inquire to the possibility of bringing the festival to their city. After weeks of conversations between the parties it was agreed that the 2012 Rocket Boys/October Sky Festival will be held in Beckley with many events taking place on the grounds of the Exhibition Coal Mine at New River Park on Oct. 5-7.

Rocket Boys Homer Hickam, Roy Lee Cooke, O’Dell Carroll and Billy Rose are scheduled to appear this year, along with still-to-be announced special guests. In previous years, NASA shuttle astronauts Bill Readdy and Thomas Jones and several stars of the film “October Sky” have been among the celebrities who attend to mingle with fans of the “Coalwood” series of books by Hickam.

Opening ceremonies for Saturday’s events will be held Oct. 6 at 10 a.m. at the Rahall Company Store, 513 Ewart Ave., at the Beckley Exhibition Mine. The city’s annual Chili Night event Saturday evening in uptown Beckley will include a “Rocket Fuel” Chili and other festival tie-ins.

Friday’s events will focus on area high school and middle schools including possible visits by the Rocket Boys. Sunday’s events will include the opportunity for attendees to take a luxury motor coach day trip to visit Coalwood.

This year’s festival will include tours of the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine and will feature Hickam and the other Rocket Boys signing copies of his best-selling books throughout the day at the Exhibition Mine’s Company Store. Several other notable authors with ties to the area will be on site signing their books as well.

There will be a launch pad at the park for model rockets from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, which is sure to attract rocket enthusiasts of all ages from across the country.

In past years, thousands of fans from all over the world have converged on southern West Virginia for the festival, including busloads of students and fans eager to meet their heroes featured in Hickam’s “Coalwood” series of books, “Rocket Boys,” “The Coalwood Way,” “Sky of Stone” and “We Are Not Afraid.”

Hickam is also the author of several other best sellers including the “Josh Thurlow” three-book series of World War II adventures, the space thriller “Back to the Moon,” “Red Helmet,” a fiction novel set in the modern-day West Virginia coalfields, “My Dream of Stars,” and his latest ,“Crater,” a young adult novel set on the moon in the not too distant future.

Hickam’s books will be available for purchase at the festival, with proceeds benefiting the nonprofit United Way of Southern West Virginia for specific local charities and the Cape Coalwood Restoration Association, which uses its proceeds to help fund the tiny town’s youth activities and upkeep.

More information is available about the 2012 October Sky Rocket Boys Festival at

More information is available about the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine at

For vendor information contact festival organizers at

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