Countdown to Yuri’s Night celebrates historic flight with festive DC event

Galactic travelers Drinkbot, Maki Rolle, Candy del Rio, GiGi Holliday and Matthew Grant fete Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (Stereo Vision)

On April 12, 1961, Soviet Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin boldly ventured into orbit for the very first successful manned space flight.  According to the late Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, “Gagarin flew into space, but he didn’t see any god there.”  To which one wag retorted, “If he had stepped outside of the capsule, he would have seen God.”

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin
Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

Fifty-three years later, people are still arguing the existence of a Higher Power.  There is also a debate as to whether or not Gagarin’s flight actually qualified as the historic first. (Yuri, contrary to rules set up by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, ejected from the Vostok 1 capsule and gently parachuted back to Earth.)

But why quibble verities when you can just throw a party!  That is what people worldwide will be doing this coming Saturday in a commemoration lovingly known as Yuri’s Night.

Yuri’s Night is billed as a global celebration of humanity’s past, present, and future in space.  The planetary revelries recall both Gagarin’s first manned spaceflight, and NASA’s April 12, 1981 inaugural launch of the Space Shuttle.  In 2011 – the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight – over 100,000 people attended 567 officially-recognized events in 75 countries on all 7 continents.  This year, more than 180 organized parties are scheduled in some 47 countries all around the world.

Events for Yuri’s Night combine space-themed partying with education and outreach. These fetes can range from a full tilt extravaganza, to a backyard barbecue and a little stargazing with family and friends.

While no official parties are planned for the Baltimore area, there are three events on tap for Washington, DC.  The largest of these, Countdown to Yuri’s Night (C2YN), offers an artistic spin on this high-science holiday by combining an art exhibition, a space-themed burlesque show, musical performances, and a dance party.  C2YN happens on Saturday from 6:00pm – 2:00am at the Anacostia Arts Center.

“This is a party that celebrates exploration,” said Astro Pop Events producer Jared Davis. “With the new arts venues in Anacostia, it seemed like a great opportunity to travel back to the district after three great years in Virginia. We are excited to explore the new partnerships this location provides and re-imagine our event in new spaces.”

Space Truckin' is the theme for this years exhibit. (Matt Sesow)
Space Truckin’ is the theme for this years exhibit. (Matt Sesow)

C2YN will offer party-goers over 40 performing and visual artists.  The festivities will encompass the Anacostia Arts Center’s numerous nooks and crannies; extend to the sidewalk with tours of two retro-future Airstream trailers; and move two doors down the block into Honfleur Gallery for live music.

Bands include spacey surf-rockers the Atomic Mosquitos – complete with the other-worldly sounds of the Theremin; and James Terrell The Color of Sound – a band which sprinkles P-Funk covers into their original rock, blues, reggae and soul music.

For this year’s Star Wars inspired burlesque show, Astro Pop regulars Kittie Glitter, Matt Grant and Andrew Wodzianski will be joined by NYC-based boylesque star Mr. Gorgeous; DC burlesquers Candy Del Rio, Gigi Holliday, Maria Bella and Maki Roll; and introducing Patrick M. Doneghy as Hansel-O.  Show times are at 8 pm, 9:30 pm, and 11 pm. (Please note that the 9:30 show is sold out.)

A Celestial Costume Contest takes place at midnight, followed by a Lunar Dance Party until closing with artist and DJ Adrian Loving.

Throughout the evening, attendees may peruse the exhibition, “Space Truckin”, where fifteen DC-area artists imagine ways to rocket up, beam down, and blast off for worlds unknown.  Additionally, DC Modern Design+Build Gallery, located within the arts center, will be hosting an exhibition “The Art of the Airstream.”

The exhibition will run through May 17.

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People may still argue the finer points of Yuri Gagarin’s historic assent into the heavens, but one indisputable fact remains: his spaceflight took a mere 108 minutes from launch to landing.  Countdown to Yuri’s Night pads that star trek out to a full six hours this Saturday, April 12, from 8pm to 2am, at Anacostia Arts Center (1231 Good Hope Road, SE). Tickets are $25 in advance/$30 Door with a $12 party-only ticket (no burlesque show). Shuttle service to the Eastern Market and Anacostia metros will be provided free of charge. Please note this is a 21+ event. More information may be found on Facebook or by visiting C2YN online for tickets, transportation info, artist links, and announcements.