MARION, Kan. (KSNW) – A small town festival is shooting for the stars by celebrating this year’s 50th anniversary of the moon landing.
The grand marshal of the parade is the brother of astronaut, Neil Armstrong.
“Growing up we had very little money,” said 84-year-old Dean Armstrong. “He and I shared a bedroom. We never had a fight, never had a disagreement. I have total respect for him.”
Dean Armstrong moved from their home state of Ohio to Kansas in 1978 and later owned banks in Florence and Burns.
He retired to Marion County Lake 20 years ago.
Neil Armstrong would visit, but Dean would tell no one but family. He likes his privacy.
“My brother was the same way,” said Dean. “We don’t like publicity. We like peace and quiet.”
But his cover is now blown!
Dean’s ride in Marion’s Old Settlers Day parade is a replica of the space shuttle, on loan from the Cosmosphere and NASA.
“They built it one quarter to size,” said Dean. “For us, we had to put up a million dollar liability to move it out of the warehouse.”
Parade organizer, Alex Case, couldn’t believe their good fortune!
“And I literally got goose bumps,” said Case. “It’s going to be a really neat day.”
But of course, every shuttle needs a crew, and Dean had some folks in mind who were ready to step up.
His 12 grandchildren have their own space suits, direct from the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Ohio!
The oldest little astronaut is nine years old, and the youngest is three.
They’ll all be in Saturday’s parade, even wearing space helmets.
“We’re going to ride on a float and throw astronauts,” said granddaughter, Caileigh Johnson, laughing. “Little tiny miniature ones!”
They’re excited to follow in their great-uncle’s footsteps, even though they don’t know his famous line, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The parade is a chance to celebrate history and their hometown, showing off Marion’s renovated Main Street.
“We’re hopeful people come to Marion and say this looks like a place I might like to stay,” said Randy Collett, the director of economic development.
That’s why Dean Armstrong agreed to go public, after all these years.
“I wanted to do it for them,” said Dean, gesturing toward his grandchildren. “A legacy for them.”
Old Settlers Day is Saturday, September 28 in Marion.
The parade starts at 11 a.m., followed by a picnic in the park, games and a band concert. Admission is free.
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