On the weekend of April 30 and May 1 we held a display at the ValleyFair Mall in east Maple Ridge. The Management and staff of the Mall were very enthusiastic about us holding our event at their location. We were warmly greeted into their fine establishment and given every support they could to make our weekend a success. On behalf of our RASC membership I wish to extend a heartfelt thank you to Nicole and Valerie and their staff for making us feel so welcome.
Mark Eburne brought a whole truck load of astronomy gear to show the public. Not only did he bring his ED80 and mount, his binocular parrallellagram mount and his freshly made easels for our new posters; he also brought the “water heater”. Mark also supplied his projector so that we could show slides and presentations when the public gathered. I brought the RASC solar telescope and mounted it on my EQ3 as well as my Eclipse which I mounted on my HEQ5 as a static display. Mark also brought a formidable amount of handouts and literature on light pollution.
On the Saturday, Mark and I were kept busy answering the public’s questions about our equipment, light pollution, and viewing in the Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and Mission regions. The “water heater” was a real magnet for drawing people in towards our display table. Everyone wanted to have a closeup look at the “old beast”. Many were impressed by that 14.5″ mirror at the back end. Unfortunately, the Mall is not long enough to allow us to achieve focus so they had to be satisfied with views through Marks ED80 and my Eclipse 150.
Our new posters were also a very big draw and sparked conversations around our solar system and future exploration and discovery. I took the oportunity to point out that Saturn was in the evening sky and would be available for viewing that evening. I soon found myself promising children and adults that I would be setting up a telescope that evening in front of the SaveOn Foods to do just that. The solar posters got me into promising to set up the solar telescope on the next day at the same location. I had two families as well as a few other groups of people visit me on both ocassions to look through the telescopes. Their enthusiasm was infectious.
Mark was kept very busy having conversations about light pollution and what we can do to plan for a darker future. I think he found a ground swell of support from the general public for the cause. I believe more people spent more time talking to Mark about light pollution than to me about the night sky. I was almost jealous ;).
I wish to also thank Dave Smith, Operations manager at SaveOn Foods, for allowing me to set up on Saturday night in front of his store. He also permitted me to store my EQ3 mount and tripod in the store overnight so that it would be quicker to set up the next day for the solar viewing. Even at that, I had some kids waiting for me on Sunday to get the solar scope aligned up and focused in.
On Sunday we also had the help of Ron Jerome. This allowed me to spend the afternoon at the solar scope showing our closest star to the public. Although I didn’t get to see Ron much, lots of people told me they were sent to me by Ron. Ron also brought more handouts and reference materials for the public, which was timely as Mark and I were close to running out of supplies. I also know that one gentleman went home and brought his telescope to Ron for advise and education in its use. He couldn’t have been luckier than to have Ron manning the booth that day.
Overall I would have to say that the event was very successful. We promoted the Astronomy Day event as much as possible, we sold raffle tickets, and discovered a lot of people in our community interested in astronomy as well as a few “closet” astronomers. I hope we can put on similar events at other malls in the lower mainland in the future.