Yuri’s Night @ The Great Lakes Science Center

By Long Shot Contributor Brett Bennett, with photos by Morgan Bennett

In late February, I received an email from Doug that read “Possible opportunity for you if interested.” For those of you who don’t know, he has never been someone who is short on words especially when in written form so my interest was definitely enticed by this unusual brevity of his. Upon meeting up with him later, he explained that there was this event going on down at the Great Lakes Science Center to commemorate Yuri Gagarin as the first human in outer space. There was some mention of some food and drinks involved but he thought it sounded like something I would enjoy covering for the Long Shot. I thought to myself, why not? I try to stay somewhat in the know by following tidbits of info on my newsfeeds with regard to ongoing space exploration and discoveries so I happily agreed to head down to this Yuri’s Night event to listen to some NASA science experts discuss the past accomplishments and future prospects of space exploration. Having some food and drinks around wasn’t such a bad thing either.

Yuri Night

Now please allow me to momentarily deviate here because for those of you who know what Yuri’s Night actually entails then you are probably scratching your noggin asking, “What event was this guy attending?” For those of you who don’t, allow me to expound on the matter. Yuri’s Night is not just a group of geeks and nerds getting together in that stereotypical boring convention panel setting to listen to those previously mentioned NASA peeps talk about space. It’s a party! Like a PARTY party!!

Some facts and history…

The first Yuri’s Night was held on April 12, 2001, the 40th anniversary of Colonel Gagarin’s 108 minute long monumental journey into space, as an effort to increase public interest in space exploration and to inspire a new generation of explorers. Over the years, the phenomenon spread to other cities throughout the U.S. eventually reaching Cleveland’s shores in 2009 with the help of the NASA Glenn Developing Professionals Club. It has continued to cultivate and has gathered followings both in Cleveland and around the world. This year the event was celebrated at nearly 200 locations in 39 different countries across all seven continents. Yes, all seven! There was even a party held at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station in Antarctica. Science folks apparently don’t mess around when its time to get down!

Great Lakes Science Center, where Yuri's Night Space Party 2015 was held in Cleveland

Great Lakes Science Center, where Yuri’s Night Space Party 2015 was held in Cleveland

Lift off…

At 7 p.m., the doors of the center opened for those who smartly obtained VIP passes. I had been prearranged to meet up with Dr. Kirsten Ellenbogen, President and CEO of the Great Lakes Science Center to get a chance for short interview to discuss the event. Upstairs, in the VIP area, introductions between us were made and we got to talking. There was a whole evening of programming planned… everything you would normally expect from the science center: hands-on exhibits, interactive group experiments, crafty projects you could take home with you as small souvenirs and a crew of knowledgeable staff that was always obliged to answer any questions you had to throw at them.

Long Shot writer Brett sporting custom T-shirt (his idea) and GLSC President

Long Shot writer Brett sporting custom T-shirt (his idea) and GLSC President and CEO Dr. Kirsten Ellenbogen

The things that really set this night apart from your normal visit to the GLSC, aside from the later-than-normal hours of operation, were the local bands playing throughout the complex all night, a series of trivia and costume contests, an amazing selection of examples from local restaurants and bakeries and a DJ-fueled dance party with a midnight balloon drop. All of this done with drink (or drinks for you double-fisters out there) in hand. Free beer, wine and hard cider was available in many different areas albeit with a bit of a slow-moving line to get your beverage, but I took that as an opportunity to really take in the sights and the appreciate all of the effort everyone had put into making the event.

yuri lobby

Aside from the obvious decorations for the party, the first thing that hit me was the music already going when I walked through the door. Upstairs in the VIP lounge, Michael McFarland was already jamming out private concert-style for those guests. With tunes something akin to my alternative rock roots The Wallflowers & Tonic, I happily took the opportunity later to catch Michael playing a second time downstairs for the general admission folks. Sadly, I totally neglected to hear Indira & Guppy Jo but they were playing somewhere earlier in the night too. The band that you could absolutely not miss was Abby Normal and the Detroit Lean. First off, there’s a trombonist in the group so that is an instant winner in my books but they would’ve have won me over with any brass to be honest. These guys were loud, interactive with the crowd and really knew how to spice up the party. Had I a decent place to sit down, I would have stuck around for longer than I did. And finally, what great party doesn’t have a DJ? Well, for Yuri’s Night that honor was held by DJ Justin Nyce and what a way to ride out the rest of the evening than listening to EDM while the dance floor is littered with geeks in space costumes.

Abby Normal and the Detroit Lean

Abby Normal and the Detroit Lean

Michael McFarland

Michael McFarland

And speaking of costumes… I was ecstatic to hear that Star Wars cosplayers from the 501st Legion and their “rebel scum” counterparts, the Rebel Legion were going to be in attendance. My personal favorite for the night though was the iconic astromech droid we all know and love, R2-D2. While not a costume, he was definitely an amazing robotic work of art created by Scott Kern. I had great side conversation with Scott about his hobby while I watched him mesmerize the other party goers with R2’s intereactions with them. With costumes in abundance there of course was a contest.

Scott Kern's astromech droid and Darth Vader. Check out Scott's blog for his astromeching adventures (link above)

Scott Kern’s astromech droid and Darth Vader. Check out Scott’s blog for his astromeching adventures (link above)

Thirty-three attendees entered but there were way more in house for sure. That group was combed through and eventually narrowed down to a preliminary set of fifteen. I had the honor of being a guest judge alongside Dr. Ellenbogen to decide between us who the final five would be before we made the grueling decision of who would be awarded first and second place. Some standouts were Jedi from Star Wars, two separate groups representing the classic spoof Space Balls, one of those blue things from James Cameron’s Avatar, Leeloo from Fifth Element, and that B-movie loving guy from Mystery Science Theatre 3K. First place eventually went to a creative pair that was dressed up as Disney’s Epcot Center and its iconic monorail train. Runner up was Miss Piggy from the Muppets’ “Pigs In Space” skit. Next year, I will seriously consider possibly going as a Gundam since I didn’t see anyone representing the anime space geeks.

Yuri's Night Space Party costume contest winners: Disney World's Monorail and Epcot Center

Yuri’s Night Space Party costume contest winners: Disney World’s Monorail and Epcot Center

yuri brett imps

Long Shot’s Brett and members of the 501st Legion, Star Wars cosplayers. Good to see the Imps represented!

Yuri costume

Seth works at GLSC and stayed in character as Yuri Gagarin throughout the night

yuri rainbow dash

For all the bronies out there, here’s Rainbow Dash

yuri silver costume

Classic sci-fi silver costume. i love it!

yuri trekkers

There had to be some Trekkies. Red shirt though? Go for the blue (or command gold). Yes, i’m TOS all the way


Walking around the exhibits and gazing at all the awesome costumes in the crowd can really make you hungry. The GLSC had that covered though. Aside from the bar food type appetizers that were available to the general admission guest, there was also a special VIP lounge area with an abundance of tasty treats provided by various local culinary artisans. Some of this year’s selection included BBQ pulled pork sandwiches by The Blazing Bistro, a small selection of sushi hand rolled on the spot by Sushi 86 and some yummy nachos by ABC the Tavern. If sweets were your weakness then there were also mini donuts offered by Peace, Love, & Little Donuts of Westpark or the assortment of chocolate delights put out by Sweet Designs Chocolatier. Both of those two were hard displays to walk away from empty handed!

Yuri cupcakes

A selection of the sweet side of treats on Yuri’s Night

yuri moon pastry

i think this was some sort of cake. Or maybe a ball of green cheese?!

yuri pork sandwich

Pulled pork from The Blazing Bistro


For those who think that geeks don’t know how to party, your opinion would be drastically altered after experiencing this fantastic event organized by the staff of the Great Lakes Science Center. If you missed out on attending Yuri’s Night, fret not, there is also something called “Science After Dark” which is not on the regular schedule of events for GLSC but it does come up on occasion and is similar in fashion to the Yuri’s event so keep your eyes peeled. You won’t regret it.

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Huge thanks to Brett for attending Yuri’s Night in Cleveland and sharing his observations from the evening. Also big thanks to his wife Morgan, whose terrific photos are seen here as well as through The News-Herald media gallery and in print.

Brett has been one of my closest friends for many, many years so it was awesome that he was able to attend, and they even asked him to be a guest judge for the costume contest. On top of everything else, it was a great night out for them, which doesn’t happen too often since they have a family of four kids.

Thanks also to Great Lakes Science Center, who graciously provided press passes for Brett and Morgan to this awesome event!

How was your Yuri’s Night? Please comment below if you honored this worldwide celebration and let us know about your Space Party. If you have photos or would like to share your experience here at The Long Shot, please let me know and i’ll be happy to post your observations.

Please follow/like/share if you enjoyed this coverage of Yuri’s Night Space Party or any of the other content here at The Long Shot.

Thanks for reading!


Yuri’s Night World Space Party

In my post-Wizard World Cleveland write-up i mentioned one of the cooler things i saw was the booth from Great Lakes Science Center, which attracted me with their huge sign that read “Space Party.”

The display was advertising their contribution to a 15-year tradition aimed at increasing public interest in space exploration and inspiring the next generation of explorers.

Yuri Night

Over half a century ago, humankind sent our first representative beyond the borders of our planet Earth. Yuri Gagarin, piloting the Vostok 1 spacecraft, became the first human in space on April 12, 1961. NASA’s inaugural space shuttle launch took place 20 years later to the day, on April 12, 1981.

Details of the mission were kept secret by the Soviet government due to their embroiled Space Race with the U.S., and reactions here in America were a mixed bag of fears of increased military power and appreciation of the incredible accomplishment.

Vostok 1 - the spacecraft that carried Yuri Gagarin, Earth's first human in space

Vostok 1 – the spacecraft that carried Yuri Gagarin, Earth’s first human in space

Regardless of how world powers viewed the breakthrough mission, the idea of human spaceflight captured the fascination and imagination of the world whose inhabitants previously only saw people in space through science fiction entertainment.

Perhaps most the most telling and compelling of perspectives on how we can view exploration beyond our atmosphere comes from cosmonaut Gagarin’s reactions to his single orbit of Earth, of which he said:

Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship I marveled at the beauty of our planet. People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty – not destroy it!”

These sentiments are echoed still today by those brave folks who explore, perhaps not the final frontier, but certainly the next one. For evidence of this, look no farther than the new documentary “Planetary” which features interviews with those who have followed in Yuri’s footsteps and traveled to space and back again.

“The really wonderful thing that happened to me when I was in space was this feeling of belonging to the entire universe,” recounts NASA astronaut Mae Jemison in the film.

Much as how travel beyond our hometowns, states, regions or national borders helps broaden our perspective and gain deeper understanding of our connectedness with others, viewing the planet we all live on drives that point home even more.

So to honor these milestones in space exploration, we have a party!

Yuri’s Night – often called the World Space Party – first launched in 2000, now has celebrations in close to 60 countries around the globe.

In Cleveland, Yuri’s Night Space Party is held at Great Lakes Science Center  – the perfect venue for an event aimed at fans of science fiction and fact, space aficionados and socialites alike at the home of NASA Glenn Visitor Center.

In 2014, the Plain Dealer touted Yuri’s Night as one of the 15 hottest parties of the year, and 2015 aims to deliver once again.

Featuring live music from Cleveland bands like Abby Normal and DJ Justin Nyce, the 21-and-over party should keep attendees dancing and having a great time celebrating the past, present and future of spaceflight with beer, wine and cider along with hors d’oeuvres included with ticket purchases (there’s a cash bar for cocktails as well).

New to Yuri’s Night in 2015 is a Solar Fire Light Show, and weather permitting, an outdoor deck party with additional live music including a special appearance by rocker/writer/biker/geek Michael McFarland. The Solar Fire Light Show promises a cosmic trip, and although i’m not sure exactly what this means, in my imagination i’m picturing a mashup of the ending from The Black Hole, ’60s psychedelic rock music videos and the boat ride from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Attendees are encouraged to participate in the fun, too, with a space-themed costume contest. If any readers of The Long Shot attend Yuri’s Night in Cleveland – or anywhere in the world for that matter – please share your photos! i’d love to see what sorts of costumes people wear to the World Space Party and share them here. Bonus imaginary points for Star Trek TOS attire.

Professional cosplayers will be happy to note that the Great Lakes Base post of the Rebel Legion – a Star Wars-based costuming fan club – will be on hand. In addition to building a community of like-minded cosplayers, this international group puts effort into charity events as well with their “Rebel For A Cause” program.

XTend Technologies from Broadview Heights has partnered with Critical Hit Games from Cleveland Heights to bring a Kinect and tabletop game lounge to Yuri’s Night, too.

What this all amounts to is that Yuri’s Night World Space Part at Great Lakes Science Center is set to be a majorly awesome event. There’s something for all tastes, from music and dancing to cosplay and gaming, and all under the banner of celebrating human scientific achievement.

In an era where private enterprises are launching spacecraft every week, talk of establishing colonies on Mars are a real possibility in the not-too-distant future and the job of Space Lawyer is a real thing, Yuri’s Night reminds us how far we’ve come in just a few short decades while creating excitement for where we’re headed.

General admission tickets for this event are still on sale now online, by phone at 216.621.2400 or in person at Great Lakes Science Center. The cost for admission is $55 in advance, or $70 at the door the night of the party April 11.

Great Lakes Science Center has parking available in their attached garage for $7, or you can summon a ride with the handy Uber app, like i did for Wizard World Cleveland in February.

For an even greater experience, VIP tickets are available exclusively through Living Social for $85. The VIP Lounge is accessible only through this deal, a special area overlooking the party that has an open bar and food from some of Cleveland’s best restaurants – which is impressive indeed since this foodie town has several world-renowned restaurants. The lounge will be open to VIP ticket holders from 7-11 p.m. and this special offer also grants general admission to the party.

If you attend Yuri’s Night in Cleveland, please keep an eye out for the pair of correspondents for The Long Shot who will be on hand to provide you with the best firsthand experience write-up following the party as well as taking lots of photos to share here. The News-Herald will also be creating a photo gallery to showcase their pics from the party.

If you’d like to share your experience of Yuri’s Night, no matter where in the world you celebrate, why not Take a Shot and write something up yourself? i’ll be more than happy to share it here on The Long Shot.

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