Tales of the Lazy Stargazer

Volume One, Number Fourteen

Winter Star Party 2004

By Alan Rifkin (The Lazy Star Gazer)

Reflections of the 20th Annual Winter Star Party
at West Summerland Key Girl Scout Camp (Wesumkee)

Feb 16-21 2004

Or should it be called the Windy Star Party
Or the Ant Hill Star Party

The weather was cold, cloudy and windy for most of the event. There was one good night of viewing and 2 Ĺ nights. Some nights were down in the mid 50ís. Next time I will remember to bring a sleeping bag, instead of just a sheet.

Before the event they treated the place with an insecticide. It had rained right after they applied it, and instead of killing the fire ants, it brought them out of the ground, and then gave them a bad hangover. They were numerous and mean. Most people got lots of bites. I got about a dozen per foot and a few on my hands and arms.

I Flew down the day before and rented a RV in Pompano Beach Florida, then drove it down with a short stop at a Win Dixie to fill it up with groceries. I got to 7 mile bridge in time for sunset and to the camp a little while later. The only glitch in my plans was Home Depot closed early and I had to go back Monday to buy the wood for my demo stand.

I met my STM friends Paul V. , Tony C. and a surprise was Tom G. who drove down and almost got killed in an auto accident. The car will get him home, but he will have to get a new one. Too bad he just got this one. I also met Bruce B of the ATMoB and of course Howie and Pak Sun, Judi and Al, and the Frenches.

The people that came, about 800 (less 50 vendors and 60 staff) were interested in only on thing- Viewing, actually not viewing but imaging, and there wasnít much of that. There were also great talks and classes on image processing. The vendor area was very lightly attended. I am guessing that more than a few people went down to Key West, which we did one rainy night. Had a great dinner at Maison de Peppe, and then walked off the Key Lime Pie desert by doing the Duval crawl.

This was the 20th annual event, and they had a special BBQ dinner for everyone at the end. Everyone except for vegetarians that is, unless you consider dry coleslaw and white bread a dinner, and really slow service. The cake for desert was very good. Just about everyone enjoyed it. There were also a lot of people smoking especially cigars. Thankfully there was a good wind most of the time. You can get spoiled by the lack of smokers in New England

The swap tables or swap ground was well attended by customers, but there was not much there to buy, maybe a dozen vendors, and most with only a few items to sell. Luckily Gary Hand was there to fill some of the void.

The people were all very friendly, and many were happy to just be somewhere where it was not snowing. They never cleaned up the algae on the beach, so you couldnít get to the water, but we were here to view, and the little we did get to view was very good. I understand why the imaging people were here. The steady skies should give a much better long exposure then the twinkles back home. Attilla Danko was there and became a hero when his forecasts were much better then the NWS.

God works in mysterious ways. A couple who has been coming since the beginning and are much loved by all the regulars, are having medical and financial problems and a donation jar was there for them. During the big raffle, Marcus Ludes won one of the many eyepieces that he had donated. He asked to auction it off, match the auction amount and then put it all in the jar. Alan Traino of the Rockland club jumped up and bid $500. Nobody counter offered, and a thousand buck went into the jar.

To add a somber note an old man either 80 or 88, I donít remember which, who was a long time camper, didnít feel well after the first days events and laid down. No one noticed till they found his body later. I guess this is the stargazersí version of dying with your boots on.

6219 junk emails to delete when I got back to some bandwidth.
358 miles in the RV, not counting the trips to Marathon for lumber and a very nice party put on by Sky and Telescope Magazine for their advertisers and a trip to Key West for fun. This is the least I have traveled on any trip in a long time. It is actually nice to stay in one place and get to know people. I ran into one person who asked me about my last name, as he knows someone back on Long Island with the same name. It turned out he is close friends with my cousin Andy and has heard all the old stories about me. The whole place was like that, just one big group of friends united by the common bond of astronomy. It was a good time and definitely worth going to, even if it was just to get away from the cold of New England.

Would I go again? Ask me again when I stop itching and scratching.

Till the next time
The Lazy Star Gazer

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All contents © 2004 by Alan Rifkin. All Rights Reserved.