Department of Tourism
'Starparty' to Lure Stargazers to Gravel Switch Nov. 3
GRAVEL SWITCH, Ky. – The beauty of the starry Kentucky night sky will be the focus of a “Starparty” set for Saturday Nov. 3 at historic Penn’s Store near Gravel Switch in Marion County.
The first annual Starry, Starry Night Starparty at the tradition-rich Penn’s Store, about 15 miles east of Lebanon, Ky. off of Hwy. 68, will feature a research grade 15-inch-diameter telescope for inspecting the celestial formations. Participants may also bring their own telescopes and binoculars to the free event from 6:30-11:30 p.m. Saturday.
Jeanne Lane, proprietor of Penn’s Store, said cloudy conditions could force postponement of the event and advised those interested in attending to call her before traveling to the party. Even if weather doesn’t permit stargazing, the store will be holding an open house with music and light refreshments from 11 a.m. to about 7:30 p.m., Lane said. “The store will be open with a fire going till about midnight if we have the starparty,” Lane said.
The party’s hosts, Lacy Thomas and his wife Brenda of the Sidewalk Astronomers of America, will provide instruction in basic astronomy for star-gazers, who are advised to bring comfortable chairs and wear warm clothes. Participants are asked to arrive before 6:30 p.m. so their auto headlights don’t disturb the party-goers’ night vision.
Night vision is important to the starparty experience because views of some of the stars, star clusters, galaxies and nebulae will be very faint. Participants can bring red lights or flashlights that will be covered with red balloons so that they don’t disturb viewers’ night vision.
Around 10:30 p.m., Mars and the great Orion nebula should be visible. Stargazers should also be able to see the cat’s eye nebula, the “blue snowball” and “E.T.” during the evening.
Penn’s Store, which bills itself as the oldest country store in the U.S. still in operation by the same family, is kicking off its holiday season with the starparty. The store, which has been owned by the Penn family since about 1870, will also be holding an open house 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday Nov. 2 and 1-5 p.m. Sunday Nov. 4. Light refreshments will be served, and visitors are welcome to bring a musical instrument and participate in impromptu “pickin’ and singin’” sessions that are common occurrences at the store. A variety of Kentucky foods and crafts are for sale at the store.
For more information, call Lane at 859-332-7706 or 859-332-7715 or visit www.PennsStore.com.