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Apollo Moon Landing Celebration scuttled for 2017

| Monday, July 17, 2017, 11:40 p.m.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Members of The Golden Triangles perform during the Moon Landing parade in Apollo on July 11, 2015.
courtesy of the Apollo Area Historical Society
Apollo 17 astronaut Ron Evans is honored as part of the 1973 Apollo Moon Landing Festival. Evans was on the final U.S. moon mission in 1972. Former Apollo Mayor Duane Guthrie presented Evans with an award.

The Apollo Moon Landing Celebration, a nearly 50-year tradition, was canceled for this year because of declining attendance in recent years and carnival scheduling conflicts.

“There will be no moon landing,” said Bill Walker, president of Apollo Volunteer Fire Department Hose No. 2.

The Apollo department has held the event, recognizing the landing of the spacecraft that shares its name with the borough, since shortly after NASA's first moon landing on July 20, 1969.

Walker said the summer celebration used to bring in $30,000 to $40,000 each year for the fire department, but organizers have seen a significant drop in attendance and profits over the last 10 years. Now, they are lucky to bring in between $5,000 and $7,500, he said.

“We hate to change or cancel anything that's a longstanding tradition with the community,” Walker said. “It is a fundraiser for us and if we're losing money on it we can't afford to do it.” He also said ownership of the carnival company the department used each year changed, and the owner didn't have availability for the Moon Landing Celebration this year.

“We have not been able to find another carnival that met our requirements,” Walker said. “We're always real careful about the personnel and vendors.”

Walker said about 98 percent of the fire department's $100,000 budget is supplied through fundraising such as bingo, fish fries and raffles.

Money raised from the celebration typically has gone into savings to fund bigger projects, such as buying a new truck or making renovations to the fire hall.

“It's a hit in a long-term way, but not in a day-to-day way,” Walker said of losing that money.

Apollo Mayor Jeff Held said he's sad to see the celebration go, but understands the loss in attendance and changes over the years have affected its success.

“I totally understand the reasoning behind it,” Held said. “I would like to see something in its place pop up.”

Held started as a volunteer with the fire company when he was 14 and even served as chair of the planning committee for a couple years.

The celebration used to include a fireworks display and dozens of vendors. Many high school reunions were planned around the event.

“It was a big deal,” he said.

He said the borough doesn't have the money to help support the celebration.

“As a borough, we don't have any resources at all,” he said. “What money we do have, we're reinvesting into the police department and paying out matches on the grants that we got.”

Walker said the department hasn't totally ruled out having the Moon Landing Celebration again.

“We still have a committee that's supposed to be looking for different alternatives for possibly starting it up again,” he said. “We're always looking at events for fundraising.”

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680, or via Twitter @emilybalser.

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