The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel. Samuel Wheeler photo

BETHEL — The moon, well, part of it, is coming to Maine.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing July 20, 1969, the Moon in Maine Lunar Extravaganza will be held tonight from 5:30 to 10 p.m. inside and outside the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum.

“They are the largest pieces of the moon known to exist on Earth,” museum Director Barbra Barrett said. “Currently the Museum has six of the largest pieces and we will be unveiling four of the largest meteorites on Friday.”

The claim refers to rocks found by rock hunters and held in private collections. The largest collection of lunar rocks is housed at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, a collection of samples brought back by astronauts. These rocks are not available for sale.

The unveiling is expected to happen between 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. inside the museum.

“It is an incredible achievement for such a small museum,” Barrett said.

Every one of the lunar meteorites was found in the Sahara Desert. The museum works with meteorite hunters and as they have been found, the museum has been able to work with the hunters directly or through a specific broker who has been able to get the meteorites to them.

“We’ve been collecting meteorites for several years,” Barrett said. “Over the last few years we were lucky enough to be able to find and connect with the people who had found this incredible find of lunar meteorites. Now they are here in Bethel and that’s pretty unusual.”

The museum has more lunar meteorites than any other institution in the world, according to Barrett.

A small section of Main and Chapman streets will be closed for the duration of the “Rock Party,” as Barrett calls it.

Three bands — The Vernon Street Jazz Band, Earth Funk and headliner the Mallett Brothers — will play in the Key Bank parking lot, across from the museum.

Local food and beer will be available throughout the evening from food trucks Hungry Mama, Road Hawg BBQ, Pinky D’s Poutine and Sunday River Brewing Co.

With neighboring businesses such as Steam Mill Brewing, Le Mu Eats and Cafe DiCocoa’s also open, the museum is hoping for many people to come out and celebrate a special event in history.

“The 50th anniversary is the whole notion of this. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and to be able to share the whole experience with this little community,” Barrett said.

The actual anniversary of the landing is on July 20, but the museum did not want to conflict with the Molly Ockett Day festivities.

There is also going to be an exhibit on the Apollo Mission, and not only the 11th, but other missions too, according to Barrett.

Outside will be PaintScaping, a 3-D mapping company, which will show Apollo taking off from Cape Canaveral and landing on the moon.

“They’ll use the whole entire building as a canvas,” Barrett said. The projection will start around 9 p.m. and go until 10 p.m.


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