The Alien Drop! When you attend this year's Sputnikfest be sure to buy your tickets for the Alien Drop. Or, more precisely - be sure to buy your Aliens for the Alien Drop - a fundraiser conducted during Sputnikfest, with the funds going to support the Rahr West Art Museum's children's art programs. Little rubber alien shaped erasers are sold for $5 each or three for $10. Each little alien has a paper band around its cute little alien waist with a unique number on it. Everyone who purchases an alien for the Alien Drop receives a ticket with a number matching that on their alien. Then, at pre-determined times throughout the event (currently there are two drops planned, 3PM and 9PM) all the alien erasers that have been purchased are placed in a big bucket and given over to the custody of “Manitowoc’s Finest” - who are there with a Manitowoc Fire Department Ladder Truck. The bucket is taken to the top of the extended ladder of the truck - which is parked on N. 8th Street in front of the museum. After an appropriately dramatic countdown, the bucket full of aliens is dumped from the top of the ladder bucket right over the brass ring in the street, which marks the exact spot where the Sputnik IV debris landed. Spectators wait breathlessly while Sputnikfest officials retreive the alien which has landed closest to the center of the brass ring. The lucky purchaser of that alien wins half of the money collected for that Alien Drop. But the fun isn't over! After the winning alien is retrieved, all the remaining aliens are fair game for kids of all ages - who rush in and retrieve as many aliens as they can get their alien-pickin' hands on!
Rebel Without a Cause, The Griffith Observatory, and Sputnikfest. What do those three things have in common? If you haven't seen Rebel Without a Cause - the 1955 teen angst film starring James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo - give it a try. It is a fifties retro classic that you really have to see at least once. Given the film's release right after James Dean's death, it is eerie to hear him (in the character of Jim Stark) say the line "I don't know what to do any more, except maybe die." There is another line in the movie where Jim Stark/James Dean looks up at the stars in the Griffith Park Observatory Planetarium (where several key scenes in the movie take place) and says "Once you've been up there, you know you've been someplace." The Griffith Observatory publishes a full-color glossy magazine with the title "The Griffith Observer." The April 2012 edition of the magazine features an article on Sputnikfest by Manitowoc native Sherry Dewane. According to what I find about her on the web, Sherry is currently the Vice President of FOTO (the Friends Of The Observatory). Sherry notes that in 1962 she was "quite young" and has "no recollection" of the actual Sputnik crash, but she is quite obviously pleased by the way her old home town is honoring this event. Sherry notes in her article that "Anything in Wisconsin with 'fest' in the name" means bratwurst and "enough beer to launch a satellite." Oh, Sherry - you do know us well, don't you? Sherry says she doesn't know of any other space-debris festivals. That's right. Sputnikfest is one-of-a kind. There is nothing else on earth like it - and, as Jim Stark would say "Once you've been there, you'll know you've been someplace." Till next time - Planet Terry