Spacefest – The Little Convention That Could
When renowned space artist Kim Poor and a small but dedicated team at Novaspace held the first Spacefest in 2007, they may not have fully anticipated what that inaugural event would grow into.
Then again, maybe they did. Because Poor, a visionary, had a knack for inspiring people through the power of his imagination – most notably through his brilliant artwork, but in other ways as well.
“Inspiring Figures would like to thank the Spacefest team for allowing senior writer Becca Gladden to cover the conference this year. We encourage everyone to attend Spacefest X taking place August 8-11, 2019 at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort in Tucson, Arizona.”
Poor began selling astronomical art in college, eventually turning his passion into a full-time business, with wife Sally part of the team from the start. Novaspace Art began in 1978 as a mail-order source for his prints. In the early 1990s, items autographed by astronauts were added to the product line.
Soon, Astronaut Central was launched as a spinoff business under the Novaspace umbrella. Focusing on authentic NASA astronaut autographs and space memorabilia, the website and catalog quickly became a trusted clearinghouse for coveted collectibles provided by the astronauts themselves.
Seeing an opportunity to combine his varied interests into an eclectic event that people with similar passions could attend, Poor and team held the first Spacefest in Phoenix, Arizona in 2007. It included a stellar lineup of astronauts and speakers, a space art show, film screening, exhibitor hall, banquet, book signings and more.
This year’s Spacefest IX was held in July at the beautiful Starr Pass Resort in Tucson. It was the first year without Kim Poor at the helm (more on this below), but Sally Poor and the rest of the team delivered an unparalleled experience for fans of space, science, art and astronauts.
The highlight of Spacefest IX was, as always, the presence of the Gemini and Apollo-era astronauts. There was a nonstop stream of autograph enthusiasts waiting their turn to meet Apollo 13 lunar module pilot Fred Haise, moonwalker Charlie Duke, and Apollo 7 Walt Cunningham, among others.
The astronauts also made appearances in some amazing panel sessions, most notably the Apollo panel, which included Haise, Cunningham and Duke, along with Al Worden, Rick Armstrong (Neil’s son), pioneering NASA nurse Dee O’Hara, and more. Astronauts from the Skylab and Shuttle eras were also on hand throughout the weekend. Additional panels featured speakers involved in spaceflight in a variety of roles, including flight controllers, mission specialists, authors, engineers and scientists.
A popular panel entitled “Moonwalker Daughters” presented astronaut wives Sue Bean and Barbara Cernan Butler, and astronaut daughters Amy Bean and Tracy Cernan Woolie. Astronaut Alan Bean passed away just five weeks before Spacefest IX, with Gene Cernan having passed last year. Both were longtime Spacefest participants and were honored throughout this year’s event.
As the passage of time inevitably takes its toll on our heroes from the golden age of spaceflight, each Spacefest becomes that much more meaningful to those who attend. People come from all over the world for a chance to meet and mingle with the brave men and women they’ve idolized since childhood, and to introduce their own children and grandchildren to these inspiring figures.
A few years ago, the Spacefest team added a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics) component to the event appeal to attract a younger audience and appeal to local Tucson families. The STEAM initiative continues to expand at Spacefest and provides many opportunities for hands-on exploration and discovery aimed at students. Exhibitors this year included representatives of the OSIRIS-Rex mission, Kitt Peak National Observatory, Biosphere 2, and the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
Other notable activities at Spacefest IX included a screening of the movie Apollo 13 featuring a Q & A with astronaut Fred Haise (portrayed in the film by Bill Paxton); a formal banquet, where guests were seated with an astronaut or VIP at the head of each table; and a surprise visit to the Exhibit Hall by astronaut Mark Kelly and former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
It’s not too early to start making plans to attend Spacefest X and be part of history. Next year marks a major milestone for Spacefest (the 10th such event to be held) and a major milestone in US manned spaceflight: the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. Mark your calendars for August 8-11, 2019 to experience the world's greatest gathering of astronauts, scientists, artists and authors in the space and astronomy communities. Follow Spacefest on Facebook for the latest news and updates.
A Note from Inspiring Figures: Kim Poor, the founder and creative force behind Novaspace, Astronaut Central, and Spacefest, passed away in August 2017, almost exactly 10 years after the first Spacefest was held. In 2001, Poor had been diagnosed with Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 3 (SCA3) – also known as Machado Joseph Disease – a rare, genetic, degenerative disease of the nervous system. His daughter Kelsey, who has taken on the Public Relations role at Novaspace, has inherited the same condition. Kelsey made the following video in 2013 to document the toll ataxia had taken on Poor and to encourage donations supporting research to find a cure.
Please donate today at: www.ataxia.org/donate.