SSP 2014
Report from the Field
by Jose Alvira, SSP Manager

Well, here we are with another great Summer Star Party under our belts and it was indeed a fantastic success!

Attendance was record-breaking (200 people), more sister astronomy clubs were present, programs and activities rose to a new level, vendors and lectures were expanded, and Sky & Telescope Magazine continued to shine as our key Sponsor.

Many new families & individuals 'test drove' SSP for the first time and all said, "We're here to stay and we'll do it again next year!" an amazing raffle had lots of great astro toys to win, and the Chicken StarBQ drew everyone for good eats.

The SSP Opening Ceremony was a fun time for all as both event attendees and Peppermint Park 'seasonal' campers participated in a mezmerizing sky lantern launch, accompanied by a wonderful live musical performance by Dr. Ken Blumberg and Mies Hora.

Evening refreshments and an educational tour de force 'Sky Tour' provided by Alan MacRobert, Senior Editor of Sky & Telescope magazine, topped off the festivities, right into a fabulous dark sky evening of observing, with well over fifty telescopes at the ready for exploration!

Following are more SSP 2014 highlights.

SSP 2014 Highlights & Review

• The Chicken StarBQ was once again a finger-licking success and the live musical performance by Dr. Ken was outstanding! Everyone mentioned how much they enjoyed his music.
• Keith Murdock's "Comet" creation was a 'tail' of a good time as both kids and adults were mesmerized by the smokin' iceball!
• Alan MacRoberts, lecture and "Star Tour" was highly anticipated and it did not disappoint.
• Rob Teeter's lecture on "Crazy Customer Stories" gave a neat peek into the happenings at Teeter's Telescopes, as well as displaying his latest 'Master Creations' for all to see. (RAC will provide Bibs next year when viewing his creations!).
• Al Nagler, Founder of Tele Vue Optics, enlightened attendees on Eye Piece History and Choosing the Right Eyepieces for one's telescope.
• Roland Roberts did a "Solar System Planet Walk" with the kids, but I think we're still waiting for one of them to return from Mars... Oops! :•)
• Frank Bifulco gave his mesmerizing talk on "Globular Clusters" which left people saying; "I didn't know that"!
• The 'Green Light Bandito' was nowhere to be found – Rob Teeter had his posse on the look out, but no show.
• Tom Picciani's lectures delved deep into the intricacies of imaging as well as some insider fundamentals for the curious interested in getting started.
• Long time friends and fellow SSP'ers Len & Audrey Salvatore were able to join us for their first time at Peppermint Park, with volunteers at the ready to unload and setup their campsite making it possible for these veterans of the night sky to once again stargaze at SSP. They enjoyed it immensely and look forward to returning next year.
• Frank Bifulco & Tom Picciani expanded their palate, trying out new eateries and will have a report and update to their widely acclaimed 'Restaurant Guide'.
• A new addition, compliments of Ed Siemenn was "Movie Matinee". It was extremely well received with the showing of Nova & BBC astronomy documentaries held each day at the club tent on the club's new 75" LED Flat Screen Monitor!
• Speaking of the 75" LED Monitor, this beautiful new TV made all our daytime and evening lectures & movies so much more enhanced and possible.
• Our 'Movie' night was well attended with the showing of "Gravity". Just like last year, popcorn was served for just the right touch and ambiance.
• Raffle sales went very well with some very cool prizes for both kids & adults. Prizes were displayed for all to see all week long and enticed many to up their odds with additional ticket purchases that are vital to the support of SSP.
• T-Shirt sales were up this year with the great design Ed Siemenn created. Many, many people were asking to have a larger selection of sizes for next year.

Our quest to bring in sister astronomy clubs rose to a higher level of success this year, with the AOS from Long Island, NY showing a strong presence of 16 members & their long-time President, Sue Rose, and Program Director, Linda Prince, in attendance. Sue Rose is a very prominent figure in the amateur astronomy community with many contacts and ties and she was blown away with how well SSP was run. Said she "This is the best star party with the finest people running RAC I have ever seen." – a compliment of very high caliber indeed coming from this 'Lady of Astronomy'! I'd be remiss if I didn't thank Mies Hora for his excellent work in contacting and making connections with this very prestigious club and the other clubs as well. Nicely done, Mies!

Also in attendance was the Westchester Astronomy Club, and John Goss (the President Elect) from the Astronomical League (AAA). This is just the beginning of our vision to bring more astronomy clubs into the fold of SSP. Next year, RAC will provide pop-up tents for our sister clubs to display their banners and club flags, and to provide a place for their members to meet. The idea is to bring these clubs into our well-established Summer Star Party so they don't have to try and accomplish the monstrous task of developing their own, and to pool ideas, speakers, etc., to further enhance and broaden the scope of SSP.

On a more solemn note, a beautiful memorial service was held one evening to remember our dearly departed friend, Bob Godfrey, aka 'Barlow Bob'. He was a gentle soul that touched the lives of everyone that met him. He was the founding father of the "NEAF Solar Star Party" that all of us enjoy each year. He was also a prominent figure in the world of Solar Outreach Astronomy at SSP and so many other places. Individuals shared their stories of how Barlow Bob touched their lives; a slide show of images of Bob was run in the background on the 75" TV & to tie this remembrance of Bob all together, mini hot air balloon lanterns were launched into the night sky as Dr. Blumberg sang the Beatles' Here Comes the Sun. To Barlow Bob, our friend – we will miss and always remember you at the eyepiece, exploring the Sun.

Barlow Bob's closest friend, Ralph Marantino has taken on the honor of continuing Bob's work and has committed to run the "NEAF Solar Star Party" as it's new Manager for the Rockland Astronomy Club. Ralph was bequeathed all of Bob's solar equipment which he will once again make a part of all the solar star parties. Ralph brings with him many years of solar exploration and experience and is a prolific sketcher of the "Daily Face of the Sun", that many of us have enjoyed for many years. The Rockland Astronomy Club Inc. is very excited to have Ralph Marantino take the reins as 'Manager' of the "NEAF Solar Star Party" with a renewed spirit of support and evolution.

SSP's future developments are vast and exciting! The wonderful Peppermint Park Camping Resort owners, Dave and Gale Bulissa have worked very closely with us in a symbiotic relationship transforming their campground for SSP into a superior 'Dark Sky Site' with amenities needed to provide families & Individuals with comfort and safety that no other star party comes close to matching. Dave and Gale are always thinking ahead, solving problems even before we realize them with solutions ready and in hand to keep things running smoothly. We are very fortunate and grateful to work with these two very fine people with the mutual goal of creating the finest Rockland Astronomy Club Summer Star Party.

A key component that is being integrated across the board in all of the Rockland Astronomy Club's programs, is the development of the 'Program Support Team'. This team of people is transforming each program we do, into a 'group' effort rather than a single individual trying to accomplish the massive tasks at hand for each of our programs. This 'Team' not only brings down the work load of each of these programs to a more manageable and sensible level, it also allows for much better development of it's core objectives and future developments. SSP has been one of those programs that this year benefited from this 'Team Effort'.

Creating and heading this 'Support Team', and one of the key members behind the curtain in all that is the Rockland Astronomy Club, is Ed Siemenn. Ed is a tireless, totally committed, quintessential leader, helping to shape the path of the Rockland Astronomy Club. His vision, direction, and leadership have helped guide the rebirth of RAC into an 'Astronomical & Space Science Educational Evolution Movement', and the Summer Star Party is part of this evolution. Ed works close up, leading the SSP Team in making strides that were previously unattainable. It is his invaluable support, guidance and willingness to roll up his sleeves, dig in, and persevere that makes SSP possible. I, for one, am very grateful to have his passion and partnership in running the Summer Star Party!

And lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't recognize the many fine volunteers, that made SSP as awesome as it was this year. To all those that did marketing, lifted, bent over, and moved mountains, I thank you. Without your support we could have never reached the level "WE" have achieved at SSP. The challenges were many and the work unceasing, but in the end, "We put on one helluva show"! Be proud and get some rest, 'cause next year we do it all again and it'll be even more awesome than you can imagine.

This is my Seventh Year managing SSP (2007 – 2011 at Shady Pines and 2013 – 2014 at Peppermint Park Camping Resort). It's been a wild and crazy ride with many ups and downs, but this year has been (what I consider) another pivotal year for the reborn Rockland Astronomy Club's 'Summer Star Party'. My greatest joy, was to take a moment and stand in the observing field after dark and see all the buzz and excitement with the "dance of red lights" as telescopes were zipping around the night sky revealing the majesty of our vast universe that was unfolding to all our SSP attendees!

Thanks to all the attendees, Ed Siemenn, the SSP Team, and our amazing volunteers.

Signing off from the "SSP Observatory",
Jose (aka 'The Green Light Bandito')

Jose Alvira
Rockland Astronomy Club, Inc.
Board of Directors
SSP (Summer Star Party) Manager