For the first time, this year’s October Sky Festival will not be held in McDowell County.

Instead of being in Coalwood, the inspiration for Homer Hickam’s book Rocket Boys that became the movie October Sky, events will be staged at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine at New River Park in Raleigh County.

It’s a location change that will keep the festival going.

The volunteer organizers who have run the October Sky Festival in Coalwood for the past 13 years opted to cancel it this year.

"It was really just too much for them," Hickam said.  "They had thousands of people coming in there.  The average age of the folks putting it on was about my age, 70 years old, and they decided that they just couldn’t keep the quality of it up."

The McDowell County native says he supported the decision, even though he thought it would be the end of the October Sky Festival.  "We had a very good run there, but then Beckley came in and said, ‘We’d like to do it,’" Hickam said.

This year’s October Sky Festival will include four of the Rocket Boys along with Actor Scott Miles who played Hickam’s older brother in October Sky.

October Sky was based on Hickam’s Rocket Boys which was first released in 1998.  The book is now being taught in schools across the United States.

"I guess it’s falling into the category of a classic," Hickam said on Monday’s MetroNews Talkline.  "And that’s always good for an author to have a classic out there, so I’m pretty proud of the book."

The October Sky Festival opens on Friday at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine.  For more information about it, go to

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