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2008 October Sky Festival

Thanks to everyone who attended the 2008 October Sky Festival, October 4, 2008, in Coalwood.  This was our tenth year, and the crowd was the biggest yet!  The weather was glorious, and everyone had a great time.

Photos on this page (except the photo of Roger Samples) were taken by Leonard Berry.
You may click on a photo to enlarge it.


Have photos of the October Sky Festival
you'd like to share? We'd love to have them!
Note: by sending photos to us, you give us permission to display the photos on this web site.  We will credit your photos to you on the web site.  You'll still own the photos.   However, please be aware that your photos will be downloaded and used by a lot of people including students, teachers, visitor's bureaus, etc.  By submitting your photos, you are allowing your photos to be used in this manner.  Thank you!
Please contact Charlie.


Please Help with the Coalwood Movie!

Steve Date is one of fine teachers from Minnesota who has been visiting Coalwood for the past five years or so.  Steve has been videotaping the locals tell about their lives in Coalwood.  Steve has now compiled a huge library of sound and video clips along with still photos, and he is asking our assistance in finishing the project.

What is needed now is some financial assistance to pay for professional editors who will transform Steve's material into a polished DVD that will forever document Coalwood.

Steve is asking for donations of any amount.  All donations are tax deductible and will be used for the project.  For more information and a mailing address, please see the home page of www.CoalwoodMovie.com.


Read an article about the festival from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, October 5, 2008


Congratulations to Roger Samples,
West Virginia Teacher Achievement of the Year Award winner for 2008.

Tom and Jane Brooks.  Jane is a Library Media Specialist at West Morris Mendham High School in Mendham, New Jersey.  Jane's high school district is reading Rocket Boys for their "One Book West Morris" title!
School web site.

Minnesota teachers arrive on top of the Coalwood fire truck.

Red Carroll (right)

Grace Corrigan, mother of Challenger teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe.

Jimmy O'Dell Carroll,

Billy Rose

Roy Lee Cooke

Homer Hickam

Dr. Tom Jones,
Read biography on WikiPedia
Dr. Tom Jones's web site.

Linda Hickam

Homer Hickam presents an award to Michelle Pieler, winner of the Reach for the Stars Rocket Contest.

Homer recognizes a new Eagle Scout.

Dreama Denver.  Dreama is the widow of Gilligan's Island actor Bob Denver.  The Denvers have adopted Princeton, West Virginia as their hometown.

Linda and Homer Hickam

What's this?  A rocket!

Antique car show

Antique car show


More 2008 photos.



Shown below are the announcements we had on the web site before the 2008 October Sky Festival.
We'll leave them here for historical purposes.


October Sky Festival
& Coalwood School Reunion

The 10th Annual October Sky Festival will be held October 4, 2008, at Coalwood from 10 AM to 6 PM. Homer Hickam and the Rocket Boys will be present. There will be entertainment, food and children’s activities. This family-oriented Festival will also host a COALWOOD SCHOOL REUNION. All former Coalwood “Robins” and “Tigers” are welcome!

Please call (304) 297-4660 or (304) 297-4124 for information regarding vendor spaces or other questions regarding the 10th Annual October Sky Festival.


Reach for the Stars Rocket Contest Winner
Congratulations to Michelle Pieler, winner of the Reach for the Stars Rocket Contest. Michelle will be at the October Sky Festival in Coalwood on October 4, 2008.  She will be escorted by teachers Richard & Pamela Platt.


Official 2008 October Sky Festival Press Release
Prepared by Allen Media Strategies, Washington, DC

Historic West Virginia Town Gears Up for the 2008 “October Sky Festival”
Featuring Hometown Hero Homer Hickam,
NASA Shuttle Astronaut Tom Jones

COALWOOD, W. Va. – Best-selling author Homer Hickam and three other members of the original “Rocket Boys” made famous by his memoirs and the movie titled October Sky will gather again Saturday, October 4th 2008 for the tenth annual October Sky Festival in the picturesque town of Coalwood, West Virginia. Among the participants will be many of the real people featured in Hickam's "Coalwood" series which includes Rocket Boys/October Sky, The Coalwood Way, Sky of Stone, and We Are Not Afraid.

This year’s festival will feature a guest appearance by NASA shuttle astronaut and three-time spacewalker Dr. Tom Jones who will sign copies of his book Sky Walking. He will also pose for pictures and even help launch rockets with students from around the country at Cape Coalwood, the original area where Hickam and his boyhood friends sent their missiles skyward. In more than eleven years with NASA, Jones flew on four space shuttle missions into Earth orbit. On his last flight, he led three spacewalks to install the American Destiny laboratory, considered the centerpiece of the International Space Station,. In total, Dr. Jones has spent fifty-three days working and living in space. A frequent commentator on space subjects for FOX NEWS, Jones also co-authored with Michael Benson The Complete Idiot's Guide to NASA, (Alpha, 2002). Sky Walking: An Astronaut's Memoir, (Smithsonian Books-Collins, 2006) was named one of its "Five Best" books on space by the Wall Street Journal. His newest title is Hell Hawks! The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler's Wehrmacht (with Robert F. Dorr; Zenith, 2008).

Attending the festival will also be Grace Corrigan, mother of Challenger teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe, and Dreama Denver, widow of actor Bob Denver of the television shows "Gilligan's Island" and "Dobie Gillis" fame. Mrs. Denver will have her husband's delightful memoir Gilligan, Maynard, and Me available for autographs. Other local and national authors will be attending with their books about Coalwood and the people of Appalachia.

Coalwood is located near Bluefield in the rugged mountains of southern West Virginia. Its people look forward to being hosts every year to thousands of guests from across the USA. Many of the structures from 1950’s era Coalwood which were pivotal to Rocket Boys/October Sky are still standing, including the miner’s clubhouse, Hickam’s boyhood home, the company offices, and the machine shop where Hickam, his fellow members of the Big Creek Missile Agency, and company machinists built their highly-advanced rockets which captured a gold medal in the 1960 National Science Fair.

Fans attending this year’s tenth annual October Sky Festival will enjoy:

- Rocket launches at nearby “Cape Coalwood” by students from across the U.S. inspired by the book and movie.

- Guided trolley tours of Coalwood Main, the rocket launch site at Cape Coalwood and more.

- Live music from performers from across West Virginia

- Authentic classic coal mining museum displays.

- A parade and lots of children’s activities in and around Cassell Park, the Coalwood Rocket Boys playground which features a replica of a NASA shuttle.

There will be food and a festive family atmosphere all day near the height of fall foliage in West Virginia.

Hickam currently lives in Huntsville Alabama “Rocket City USA” with wife Linda. Besides Rocket Boys, he is the author of nine other books, including the “Josh Thurlow” series of WWII adventures, the “Coalwood” series and Back to the Moon. His latest novel, Red Helmet, will be available at the festival. Red Helmet is a beautifully-told love story set in the modern day West Virginia coalfields. Hickam is also working with New York producers on a big new Broadway musical based on Rocket Boys.

More information is available about The 2008 October Sky Festival Saturday October 4th in Coalwood WV at http://www.homerhickam.com/coalwood

To arrange interviews with Homer Hickam, or Rocket Boys Roy Lee Cooke, Billy Rose, and O'Dell Carroll, or NASA shuttle astronaut Tom Jones, contact Burke Allen at Allen Media Strategies in Washington DC at (703) 589-8960 or http://www.allenmediastrategies.com .

A TV "B" roll package can also be requested. Because of Coalwood’s mountainous location, cell phone use is limited on site; phone lines may require advance requests for live radio broadcasts on the day of the event.