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Cradle of Aviation features Summer of '69 exhibit

Former Mets player Art Shamsky lets museum visitors

Former Mets player Art Shamsky lets museum visitors try on his 1969 World Series ring during the opening of the "Summer of 69" exhibit Friday July 11, 2014 at the Cradle of Aviation in Garden City. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Decades have passed since 1969, when the Miracle Mets won the World Series. For former player Art Shamsky, it seems like yesterday.

"Every day somebody talks to me about the 1969 Mets, so for me it doesn't feel like it's been 45 years," he said.

That October to remember followed a whirlwind three months in American history that included the Apollo 11 moon landing in July and the Woodstock music festival in August.

Those iconic events are featured in a "Summer of '69" exhibit that opens Saturday at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City and runs through Sept. 1. Each is retold through photographs, videos and artifacts.

Festivities this weekend include appearances from Woodstock performer Robert Leonard, original vocalist for Sha Na Na; Mets stars Ed Kranepool and Bud Harrelson; and Apollo astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Fred Haise and Walt Cunningham.

Shamsky said he's proud to have been part of a team that put a smile on people's faces during a turbulent decade.

"We made people feel a little better about their lives in a period that was really gloomy in many respects," he said. "The war in Vietnam was tearing people apart, New York City was going through all sorts of problems -- the country was in flux."

He called his '69 Mets teammates "working-class" guys.

"We won. And if we could do it, they could get through their problems," he said of ordinary New Yorkers.

Cunningham, a lunar module test pilot who was part of the 1968 Apollo 7 crew, said he was so immersed in his work at NASA that he didn't realize until much later the global significance of the moon landing.

"That's something that I am now proud of, but back in those days I hardly knew," he said.

That summer, Artie Kornfeld, then 25, was promoting the three-day Woodstock festival in White Lake, N.Y., which was lauded as an achievement for the nonviolent, counterculture movement.

"Something had to be done with the war going on in Vietnam," said Kornfeld, who grew up on Long Island and quit his job as a Capital Records vice president to help organize the festival.

While festivalgoers rocked out to performances by Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and many others, Kornfeld was working backstage and helping shoot the official documentary.

Now he spends part of his time speaking to students at university campuses.

"They are so sharp, and they are so like the Woodstock generation," he said. "They have to fix what our generation messed up."

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