This was originally posted 5/1/2015

3-day celebration slated June 18-20 in borough

By Paula Grubbs
Eagle Staff Writer

MARS — When Mayor Gregg Hartung came up with the idea to have a celebration in the borough that coincides with the date when New Year’s would fall on the planet Mars, he had no idea it would become a multiple-day event that includes the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“It has taken on a life of its own,” Hartung said of the event which will run June 18 to 20.

Mars New Year will begin with a Blast-Off Dinner on June 18 at the Treesdale Country Club. Happy hour, symphony entertainment, dinner and an astronaut or scientist from NASA as the guest speaker will be included in the $100 ticket price.

Entertainment, children’s activities, a costume contest and parade, and more speakers will begin at 4 p.m. June 19 in downtown. The event will continue from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 20.

Hartung said vendors and exhibitors will support the red-planet theme of the event, including NASA — which will have four to six booths at Mars New Year.

One NASA booth, Hartung said, will offer a look at the surface of Mars through 3-D glasses. Another will feature a life-size blowup model of the Mars rover vehicle used to explore the planet.

Hartung said the Orion Space Capsule Team also will man booths. The NASA jet propulsion lab team and Jim Geen, NASA’s director of interplanetary services, will attend to talk about sending humans to Mars.

“There is way more NASA buy-in than we ever expected,” a delighted Hartung said.

The Southwest Butler County Brew Club will man a space bar from 6 to 9 p.m. June 19, where beer fans can pay to sample six brews.

The Mars School District is also involved, Hartung said.

High school art students in Erin Sloane’s classes will do space-related face painting, and a high school marketing class will share the event’s activities on social media.

Students in Mary Jo Phillips’ middle school science class will host a booth to demonstrate their NASA-related activities in school.

The Mars Public Library, Hartung said, will have a booth where a visitor can make one brush stroke on a large painting of a space vehicle.

“The result will be a unique piece of art from the first Mars New Year,” Hartung said.

The library also will have a children’s Lego competition to see who can build the best rocket.

The Mars Kiwanis Club will sponsor an alien-themed costume parade with cash prizes given to those in the most far-out costumes. The parade will be downtown from 7 to 8 p.m. June 19.

The Carnegie-Mellon University robotics department will give demonstrations at the event, and the University of Pittsburgh Science Truck will make an appearance.

Businesses and the Mars Historical and Landmark Society’s museum and model train ride will be open during Mars New Year.

“Our (historical group) helped to get things going back in 2000 by celebrating New Year’s here on Earth with a nice crowd,” said John Watson, president of the society.

Fireworks will officially mark the Mars New Year the night of June 19.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity this lends our community in terms of tourism and awareness, and shining a spotlight on Mars,” Hartung said.

He said the borough council has contracted with a consultant on a downtown redevelopment project, and a drawing will be on display at Mars New Year of what the town may look like in the future.

“That will be one way to launch our own revitalization of our community in three to five years,” Hartung said.

He said he has always thought that the one-square-mile borough could capitalize more on its stellar name to bring shoppers and entertainment-seekers into town.

“I really wanted to see if an event like this can be one of the keys to lead a revitalization for the community in building our name,” Hartung said.

“If we are going to continue to be an important community in south central Butler County, then we need a face lift and to be intentional about attracting additional businesses such as tourism.

“What an opportunity to collaborate with NASA on something many communities would love to commemorate. But there is only one Mars in America.”

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