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Westmoreland Fair features rocket flight-testing competition

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 10:19 a.m.
Marilyn Forbes | for the Daily Courier
Superintendent Robert Knouse helps rocket-maker Daniel Frye, 11, of Greensburg get his rocket ready to launch.
Marilyn Forbes | for the Daily Courier
Jonathon Brown, 11, of Tarrs explains how he built his bottle rocket.

A calm, sunny morning was the perfect setting for the annual Westmoreland Fair Rocket Flight Testing Competition that took place at the fairgrounds on Tuesday, as 4-H members from all over the county tried their hand at flights of fancy.

The event was held for the first time in the large show arena.

“We usually have it down on the side area of the fair where the horses are,” said Tina Danser of Unity Township, Penn State Extension Youth Program assistant.

That area is now the site of several new pole buildings and horse buildings, and with the additional horses now on site, a safer location was needed.

“This way, here in the arena, we won't have to worry about the safety of the horses,” Danser said.

There were a few concerns voiced about the area, which is more enclosed with the grandstand on one side and a wooded area on the other, but the windless morning lent well to the rockets as they soared straight up and down.

“This is good weather and the rockets are doing great,” Danser said.

The 4-H members who competed could design and build a single-stage or multi-stage rocket, or they could build a bottle rocket.

Winners of the rocket competition were determined by altitude — how high they rose before they began their descent — and in the case of the stage rockets, accuracy.

There were several new faces at the event this year, with most of the newcomers building bottle rockets.

“The bottle rocket numbers are up, but I attribute that, in part, to the fact that we had a science camp this summer where they made them,” Danser said.

Jonathon Brown, 11, of Tarrs was a first-time launcher, building a bottle rocket that he called “Starry Night.”

“I always wanted to try this,” Brown said, adding that he got the design from a pamphlet given to him by the 4-H Rocket Club. “I cut two bottles, put them together then added cardboard rings. I hope it works.”

Stephen Kurek, 12, of Mt. Pleasant is another first-timer who said it looked like an event he may enjoy.

“It looks fun,” Kurek said. “I thought I'd try the bottle rockets.”

Longtime event superintendent George Sprout said the event started out small and has grown in both participation and complexity.

“This really started as a side project and has grown as it went,” Sproat said. “These kids work on accuracy and altitude with their rockets, and I've really seen them grow. The rockets are getting more complicated and the kids have to put a lot of work into them to get them that way.”

Superintendent Robert Knouse said the projects and competition are not only fun and interesting, but offer the members a unique experience.

“They work with safety, which is the most important. But this is one event that they not only use their minds, but they use their hands,” Knouse said. “This gives them the chance to perfect both of those.”

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.

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