One of the most anticipated festivals of the year is under way in Beckley this weekend - The Rocket Boys Festival. And despite the loss of his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands due to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Rocket Boy Homer Hickam is still making his stops throughout the region to spread his message on the importance of education.
Hickam told The Register-Herald Friday his family lost their home at St. John in the Virgin Islands after the hurricanes made her way through, but that was not going to stop him from giving West Virginians what they have long anticipated.
"I think the message we give every year when this festival rolls around is very important," he said. "And I didn't want to disappoint the West Virginians who depend on this festival annually and work so hard to pull it off."
Hickam said the loss of his family's home has been hard. "It was very much an important part of our lives, but that does not change the fact I felt it important to be here in West Virginia," he said.
He said the Rocket Boys Festival is all about spreading the message of higher education.
"It is important for young students to hear our message on how if they strive, they can be successful," Hickam said. "We want to tell them about what all of us Rocket Boys did when we were younger, and how if they go out and attempt a higher education then they can be successful too."
Hickam also told The Register-Herald a plan for a dark sky observatory is currently under way in McDowell County.
"McDowell County has one of the darkest skies east of the Mississippi," Hickam said. "So it makes sense to have an observatory there."
A dark sky observatory allows for a setting where one can see astronomical placements in the sky more clearly.
Hickam said the observatory is not a definite plan just yet, though.
"Right now, it is just an idea," he said. "The idea is definitely under way, but a lot of things need to happen with it before we can begin building."
Hickam said there is a possibility they might receive private funding for the observatory, but he is not able to confirm that as of now.
"But we wanted to provide the public with a heads-up about the idea, and I'm making a promise I'm going to work really hard to make it exist."