Library hosts star party with long list of activities

Published 12:05 am Sunday, April 10, 2022

CHINA GROVE — The Rowan Public Library’s South Branch was suddenly space-themed on Friday night.

The rockets, star decorations and telescopes were on site because the library was hosting a star party as part of an annual statewide program.

This is the first year back with a normal program at the China Grove location since 2019. In 2020, the events were called off due to the pandemic and in 2021 the library gave out activity packets, but no dice on the real deal until Friday night.

The schedule was a packed three hours, with space and science-based stories, songs, rocket launches, a drone demonstration, outdoor yoga, raffles, telescope viewing after dark and snacks.

South Branch Operations Manager Brooke Taylor said the state has been hosting the event via a long list of facilities for 10 years and the library applied to be a site years ago when the state opened up the program to public libraries.

Taylor said as she has gotten older she has appreciated science more and more and being part of the program has been a great experience. She said she has been a backyard astronomer for years.

Her favorite thing is seeing people from all ages come out to the event and that is the reason she works in public libraries.

RPL Operations Director Laurie Lyda said her favorite thing about the event is it brings everything the library does into one experience with fun activities, education and experts all coming together.

Neil Pifer, director of Horizons Unlimited’s Woodson Planetarium, was on site to launch rockets with kids early in the evening. This was the first time he has participated in the event.

Pifer said he made a point of asking kids who were there if they wanted to push the launch button on his rockets because he wants to get a spark of interest.

“When you get those kids for the very first time doing the rocket launch, I say ‘I’m sorry dad, you’re in it now, you’re going to end up buying model rockets and shooting them,’ ” Pifer said.

Nick Stingone brought his high-power telescope. He said he has been interested in astronomy for about 40 years. It started at the former Miami Science Museum when he saw a similar event was happening there.

“I pulled in there and a guy had a telescope a little bigger than this one,” Stingone said. “He said, ‘Do you want to see Jupiter?’ and I said ‘yeah.’ ”

The man pointed at what looked like a star in the sky, Stingone looked in the telescope and it showed him Jupiter, up close with moons orbiting it. Stingone bought his own telescope a week later.

Stingone said it is not hard to get into astronomy, though buying high-end equipment can get expensive. He said showing kids planets in the telescope makes them say “wow,” though younger kids do not always grasp the gravity of what they are looking at. He said if people are interested in astronomy they should come to events like this so they can speak to people and look through telescopes.

Samantha DeBerry came to the star party with her family and it was her first time at the South branch.

“There are lots of different activities, it’s very educational,” Deberry said, adding her kids seemed to really like the rocket launches and she was looking forward to looking through telescopes later.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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