WAPAKONETA — James Schaller, a 9 year old from Perrysburg, was grinning ear to ear when one-by-one he met the five Ohio astronauts who were in Wapakoneta for the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon.
Schaller and his mother were at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum Saturday night for the dinner with the astronauts, a gala fundraiser for the museum.
“I’m interested in being a priest on the International Space Station,” said Schaller. “I hope to put a chapel up there.”
The astronauts, Sunita L. Williams, Gregory H. Johnson, Michael T. Good, Donald A. Thomas and Robert C. Springer were on hand to rub elbows with museum patrons and to recall Armstrong’s legacy.
“Seeing all of this come together in Neil’s hometown and the enthusiasm that everybody has for the event and all of the things that are going on, the participation, absolutely fantastic. It really is,” said Springer.
Museum board president Greg Meyers was pleased how the anniversary celebration went.
“It was well beyond our expectations. There were probably close to 3,0000 people that toured the museum today, 1,700 yesterday. It’s remarkable the response. It’s moving to know that people admire and respect Mr. Armstrong so much that they wanted to be here on July 20th and this weekend,” said Meyers. “We spent two years planning and the team is huge and everything has gone so well.”
It’s hard to gauge the economic impact of the past few days to the Wapakoneta area.
“I can tell you that in Ohio the average one-day visitor spends $116 so I don’t know how many visitors we had here for only one day or two days or three days but it is going to be a huge impact on the local economy,” said Donna Grube with the Auglaize and Mercer Counties Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
“It has been an incredible weekend. People from all over the country came. They wanted to be at this building and this town on the actual 50th anniversary,” said Grube who is also a board member at the museum.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.