Second Rock-It! Festival to raise funds for science center


Three Topeka-area bands — possibly four — are teaming up to make some noise and raise some funds for the Banner Creek Science Center and Observatory west of Holton with the second-annual Rock-It! Festival at Banner Creek Reservoir.

This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, June 20 on the reser­voir’s north side, with Blackwater, Atomic Suede and Kangaroo Ali confirmed to play the event, ac­cording to Mike McManigal, treas­urer of the science center’s board of directors.

“We’re working on getting a fourth band,” McManigal said. “For a pretty reasonable admission fee, you can come out and spend quite a few hours listening to four good bands.”

The first Rock-It! Festival was held last year at the reservoir grounds and featured live music along with scientific exhibits for people of all ages to enjoy.

“We had 300 people come out,” McManigal said. “We’re hoping to get double that this year.”

But apart from a dunk tank in which participants can “dunk a lo­cal cheerleader,” McManigal said none of the science-based activities that were part of last year’s Rock-It! Festival will be included in this year’s event.

“We didn’t feel that we got the attendance and response from that that we needed. So this is strictly a musical event,” McManigal said.

The event is a fund-raiser for the Science Center, where supporters have been working for the better part of the last decade to raise funds needed to realize the original plan of a 17,000-square-foot facil­ity to house the center’s observa­tory, sci­ence labs and classrooms.

Previously known as the Elk Creek Observatory, the science center’s origins trace back to 1999, when Holton High School teachers Mike and Karen Ford conceived the construction of a robotic obser­vatory and were able to obtain $31,000 in federal grants for that purpose the next year. The first ob­servatory was built north of Holton High School in late 2000 and in­cluded a 14-inch Celestron tele­scope.

The observatory was dedicated two years later with a public open house and eventually was able to upgrade to a 20-inch telescope. At that time, it was touted as the only school-owned observatory in the world and it had gained a signifi­cant amount of national attention, but it was not long before it was decided to expand the observa­tory’s scope of activity.

The Banner Creek Science Cen­ter was formed, and its board of directors came up with a plan to raise $4.5 million through dona­tions and grants to build a 17,000-square-foot center in two phases. The first phase, which was planned to establish a presence at the site and was opened to the public in May 2012, houses the 20-inch tele­scope and a 1,200-square-foot classroom.

Funds raised during this year’s event will go toward day-to-day operations at the science center, which McManigal estimated at about $1,000 per month. He added there is “still quite a way to go” before science center backers have the funds to build the 17,000-square-foot center.

“We’re still trying to finish up with some of the needs at our pre­sent facility, and once we get that stuff finished up, any future fund-raising can be set aside for our ul­timate project,” he said. “We need to retire the remaining debt that we’ve got on the facility, which is about $28,000.”

The gates will open at 3 p.m. and the first band will take the stage at 4 p.m., McManigal said. Admission is $5 for children 12 and under and $10 for those age 13 and up. Con­cessions will be available, and there will be a beer garden hosted by Boomers’ Grill, it was reported.

For more information on Banner Creek Science Center and Obser­vatory, visit

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141


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