My Notebook for Weekend of Rocket Boys’ Festival (Part II)…
Beckley, West Virginia: Friday, October 4-Saturday, October 5
What a weekend! In my last post, I wrote about setting off early Thursday morning, with my good friend Nick, to the beautiful mountains of West Virginia for the annual Rocket Boys Festival and author Homer Hickam and some of the original Rocket Boys. Arriving late afternoon, we found our accommodations at the Country Inn & Suites to be excellent, far exceeding our expectations. Loved the first-floor room conveniently located to the lobby, the ice machine, the breakfast lounge, the coffee station, the pool, etc., etc.
After settling in and then going out for a nice dinner, we relaxed outside on one of the comfortable patios and planned for Friday, which would include exploring and “reconnoitering” during the morning to locate where the venues were and to pick up our tickets for that night’s Writers’ Workshop at the beautiful Tamarack, a very short distance from our hotel. It was there that first morning where I almost met Rocket Boy, Roy Lee Cooke. As it turned out, I would eventually meet him and another Rocket Boy, Jimmy O’Dell Carroll Sunday morning at breakfast in our hotel and have them sign Rocket Boys.
Just before 5 p.m. Friday, we found our way into the comfortable auditorium at Tamarack where Homer was to conduct a question-and-answer workshop for an hour or so. To get things started, an energetic guy wearing a Boston Red Sox ball cap sat up front on the edge of the stage and asked us randomly how we’d heard about the event and the festival in general. I told him that I had found the Web page, and he was pleased with my response since he was responsible for putting the Web site up! He was quite sincere in wanting all sorts of feedback—positives and negatives—about anything concerning the Web page and/or the events of the weekend. As it turned out, the energetic guy was Scott Hill, the guy in charge of, and responsible for, the Rocket Boys’ Festival. In fact, it was his effort and hard work that landed the Festival in Beckley (a terrific location, by the way!) after the folks in Coalwood no longer could put one on. Scott’s story is a good one, and I enjoyed meeting him and talking with him throughout the course of the weekend. http://rocketboysfestival.com/home
Soon, we were in for an unexpected surprise as Homer’s pleasant wife Linda, and a very vibrant and energetic story teller/blues singer named Rhayne Thomas kicked things off while waiting for Homer to arrive from a live-TV interview outside. Doing a wonderful job of “filling,” they shared highlights of their careers and experiences in the publishing world and life with Homer.
Once Homer arrived not long after, he spoke about his own experiences getting started
in his writing career, as well as some of the various obstacles he had to overcome to get published. Throughout the evening, he was most interested in entertaining any and all questions and comments from us in the audience, and the hour moved along way too quickly. At the conclusion, Rhayne treated the audience to a sample of her blues singing and her love of all things prunes. Yes, you read that correctly—prunes! She even passed out some samples of prune snacks. (http://www.rhaynethomas.com) Meanwhile, Homer and Linda were available for book signing and photo opportunities (see photo above). Not hesitating, I seized the chance, especially since I was in the front row a few feet from Homer, so I introduced myself, had him sign my copy of Rocket Boys, shook his hand, and had Nick snap a couple of photos and then we left the auditorium, savoring the wonderful warmth of the evening’s program just concluded.
That was it for Friday night, and Nick and I returned to the hotel for some more relaxation on the veranda, a cold drink or two, and basking in the good feeling of having just spent an evening listening to one of my very favorite authors and having met some very nice and genuine people. We knew that Saturday’s Rocket Boys’ Festival would be busy and fun, and we both looked forward to getting to the New River Park and surrounding area where things would begin the next morning.
At this point, I felt as though I had reached the pinnacle! One of my major goals I had set when I decided that I would attend the Rocket Boys’ Festival was to meet Homer Hickam, introduce myself, shake his hand, and ask him to sign my book. With all of that accomplished that Friday night, I could have driven back home then and there. But then I would have missed out on several more unique things that happened during the course of Saturday and Sunday. Of those, I shall be writing in my next post. Stay tuned…CortlandWriter