WARWICK, RI —Conimicut celebrated the Apollo 11 astronauts’ landing on and safe return from the moon with a parade Saturday, braving the hottest day of the year to recall spaceflight’s past and dream of its future.
The event drew spectators who remembered the launch of Apollo first hand and those who read about it in school or watched recordings. Local politicians, including Mayor Joseph J. Solomon, Dist. 21 rep. Camille Vella Wilkinson, Councilman Jeremy Rix, School Committee Chairman Karen Bachus, School Committee woman Judy Cobden, and Councilwoman Donna Travis also marched in the parade and attended the after-parade activities.
Among those activities was a brief speech by Ret. US Army Col., and Space Shuttle Atlantis astronaut Woody Spring, the parade’s grand marshal.
Spring spoke about the world-view-shift that the space program represented for him and the rest of the world. Before then, he said, people had dreams about space travel and visting other planets.
“But everybody knew they were fantasy. Science fiction. You can’t go to space.”
Then, he said, the Apollo mission changed that.
“All of a sudden, space is real. You can go there,” Spring said.
Spring told the crowd about his own trip into orbit aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis, and the experience of liftoff, at the start with only 2Gs pushing at your back.
“And you know you’re leaving planet Earth, one way or another,” Spring said.
Once in orbit, he experienced micro-gravity, watching as a pen floated next to him in the shuttle.
After the parade, before Spring’s speech, he spoke with people lined up for a look at the models of the Saturn V rocket that carried the Apollo 11, created by Troop 1 Conimincut, and the Apollo 11 module, created by the Warwick Area Career & Technical Center.
A cutout of an astronaut suit provided a fun photo opportunity for several people as Spring, Solomon and 2019 Mrs. Rhode Island America, Ewa Mann chatted with the crowd and posed for pictures.
Inside American Legion Post 43, 662 West Shore Road, a documentary of the Apollo program was shown for the public, who were also treated to complimentary moon pies. At the back of the room, NASA Solar System Ambassador volunteer Frank Puglia, also an engineer and contractor for the Mars rovers and landers for NASA, showed moon rock samples as well as meteorites and answered questions about terrestrial and moon geology.