California family adds explosive power to Dark Sky Festival

Adam Block had no trouble getting his rocket across the border. “They didn’t even ask,” he said.

Block and 11 relatives drove from California and Portland, Oregon, to attend this year’s Dark Sky Festival in Wood Buffalo National Park – with Block’s rocket in tow.

“My wife thought it was a terrible idea,” he told Cabin Radio.


The trip of some 4,000 km, in four RVs, was “the insane idea of my cousins,” Block said, who were attracted by “the ridiculousness of coming all this way and knowing nothing about what we were getting into.”

Block, local rocket enthusiasts, and children attending the festival spent Saturday afternoon launching rockets of various sizes at Pine Lake, 40 km south of Fort Smith.

“You press a button and it sends a spark through it and lights it, then it shoots up,” described Nicholas, a young student from Hay River who came to the Dark Sky Festival with his family.

“Other kids decorated their rockets differently and put different types of fins on. I put the Canadian flag on mine,” said Nicholas.

“I just like seeing things get launched off. Mine went pretty high. A lot of people thought it went into space.”


Katie, from Spruce Grove, told Cabin Radio: “When we were building them, mine kept falling apart. It was really hard. They are just basically paper. We had to do a lot of constructing of it.”

Block, admitting he’s passionate about “the dorkiest hobby in existence,” had nothing but praise for the festival despite an overcast weekend dampening hopes of enjoying much astronomy.

“It’s amazing. Everyone is incredibly friendly. We really didn’t know what to expect but we’ve stayed busy and had a good time,” he said.

“The whole purpose of the trip was to come to this event.


“We blew through Banff, we saw Jasper for half a day, we saw some amazing landscapes – just enough that we wish we were spending two to three more weeks.”

Asked if launching her tiny, paper rocket had inspired her to imagine launching a real rocket with a space agency, Katie replied: “They’re a lot bigger. Sometimes you put people in them and that’s probably a lot harder than launching a baby, itty one.

“You have to know how high it’s going to go, where it’s going to land,” she said. “And you need to know you can trust the person inside it.”