The Derry Town Council wants to launch a new public relations campaign to attract visitors. One idea is to revive and promote the old nickname, “Space Town USA,” created after Derry’s Alan B. Shepard Jr. became the first American and second human in space. To see the problem there, imagine calling Manchester “Comedy Town USA” because Adam Sandler grew up here.
Robert Frost’s farm is in Derry, but we suppose that Space Town is sexier than Poetry Town. And Derry probably doesn’t want its streets crawling with poor liberal arts graduates from Vermont, anyway. The town wants families who will spend money.
The trouble with “Space Town USA” is that Derry has no visible connection to the space industry. Shepard moved to Texas, then California, where he died. Derry has no space industry, no NASA facility, no space-related museum to draw tourists. Attracting visitors requires offering them more than a slogan. If they come and find no rockets, no museum, no space industry, they will leave and never return. Shepard is deserving of a memorial in town. But the town must not mislead visitors into thinking they will get some kind of Disney Space experience if all it can offer is a statue and a retired rocket in a park.