Mike Dennis was solely 11 when he received a Gilbert telescope as a Christmas reward from his dad and mom.
Sixty-five years later, the Oklahoma Metropolis resident continues to be star-gazing, solely with dearer and highly effective telescopes.
“I simply by no means kicked the behavior,” mentioned Dennis, 76, a member of the Oklahoma Metropolis Astronomy Membership. “I guess I’ve spent $50,000 over the past 40 years on astronomy stuff.”
Dennis was president of the OKC Astronomy Membership nearly 40 years in the past when he organized the primary Okie-Tex Star Celebration with like-minded pals from Dallas and Houston. For 15 years, the star-gazing occasion was held at Lake Murray, however in 1999 it moved to Black Mesa and has change into top-of-the-line star events on the planet.
It has been ranked as excessive because the third-best star occasion by journal writers and bloggers, Dennis mentioned. On the Black Mesa close to Kenton within the Oklahoma Panhandle, the dearth of sunshine air pollution makes it top-of-the-line locations on the planet for star lovers.
“It is extremely, extremely darkish up there,” Dennis mentioned.
‘Type of like a household reunion’
The thirty ninth Okie-Tex Star Celebration might be held Sept. 23-30 at Camp Billy Joe, a Christian youth camp simply three miles from Black Mesa State Park. The campgrounds are in a canyon surrounded by three mesas.
Organizers at all times choose per week of the brand new moon for the occasion, when the sky would be the darkest.
Stargazers from throughout the nation and around the globe have traveled to the Oklahoma Panhandle to view the celebs. One yr an astronomy buff got here all the best way from Hong Kong. This yr, a star watcher is coming from Toronto. Many individuals return to the star occasion every year.
“It is form of like a household reunion,” Dennis mentioned. “It’s actually laid again and pleasant. The folks that come see us are on trip. They wish to get pleasure from their interest so we do not beat them over the pinnacle with a bunch of guidelines.”
The Okie-Tex Star Celebration has been described as Woodstock with out the medicine and loud music. Most individuals camp in RVs or tents, with some bringing a trailer filled with high-powered telescopes and astronomy gear. Solely purple gentle is allowed for navigation within the camp. Even flashlights should be lined with a purple lens.
The occasion has attracted as many as 650 campers. About 400 persons are anticipated to attend this yr. On-line registration for the star occasion has closed, however Dennis mentioned folks can nonetheless present up and pay the $150 charge on the door. Meals value further.
The week-long occasion consists of audio system, distributors and a swap meet. And there’s a lot to do and see within the space through the daylight earlier than the celebs come out.
“We have now loads of hikers and bike riders that come,” Dennis mentioned.
Throughout the day, campers can hike to the summit of Black Mesa, discover close by caves, make a journey to the Capulin Volcano Nationwide Monument in New Mexico, or go birding and wildlife watching.
Deer and pronghorn are generally seen within the space, and bears and mountain lions additionally reside within the space.
“There’s a mom mountain lion that has her den behind the camp,” Dennis mentioned. “I’ve seen her a few instances with a few cubs. She stays away.”
The Cosmic Cafe
Jodie Risley’s common job is director of the Cimarron Heritage Middle in Boise Metropolis. However through the Okie-Tex Star Celebration, she operates the mess corridor for the stargazers.
She has a catering enterprise and units up store at Camp Billy Joe for the week to feed all of the star lovers who do not deliver their very own groceries for the week.
“A few of them stay on Rice-A-Roni or ramen noodles and soup for the week,” she mentioned.
In the event that they choose to pay for meals, they eat like royalty for the week. Steak, brisket, rooster and hamburgers are simply a part of the menu. Risley brings 5 trailers filled with meals to make it by means of the week. The entire cooking is completed on-site.
“We cook dinner breakfast, lunch and dinner at 8, 12 and 5,” Risely mentioned. “Then beginning at 9 p.m. I’ve a Cosmic Cafe.”
The café serves up hamburgers, sizzling canines, chili canines, inexperienced chili stew, frito pie and different goodies because the campers conduct their star search through the evening. The Cosmic Café stays open till 2 a.m.
And the cooking is all completed underneath purple Christmas lights.
“Your eyes get used to that,” Risley mentioned.
Risley has been the pinnacle chef for the reason that Okie-Star Celebration has been held at Black Mesa. She has met guests from Australia, Japan, China, Canada and Mexico on the occasion.
“They arrive from all walks of life,” Risley mentioned of the astronomy buffs. “From a janitor working at an Oklahoma Metropolis hospital to working for NASA.”
The Okie-Tex Star Celebration is the most important vacationer attraction for Boise Metropolis and lots of the city’s shops rely on the enterprise they get from the campers through the week, Risley mentioned.
“I look ahead to it yearly,” she mentioned. “Everyone is aware of ‘Jodie’ as a result of I’m within the kitchen. We have now a T-shirt this yr that claims, ‘Come for the meals and keep for the celebs.'”
To study concerning the Okie-Tex Star Celebration, go to http://okie-tex.com/.