Nearly four decades have passed since a total solar eclipse has cast a shadow across the American landscape. Likely to be one of the most-viewed natural phenomena in history, millions of people are already making plans for Aug. 21, 2017.
Groups wishing to experience the full duration of the sun’s corona should head to a destination within the prime-viewing path, also known as the path of totality. These five cities — all within the path of totality — are finalizing plans for events and activities that celebrate and commemorate this memorable day.
The weather in Salem, Oregon, in August is generally warm with clear skies. Capitalizing on this favorable forecast, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes minor league baseball team will pause play during the special EclipseFest game while the sky goes dark.
“We are so pleased with the variety and creativity our local attractions and destinations have come up with to create a truly memorable eclipse experience,” said Kara Kuh, public relations manager at Travel Salem.
Special viewing parties have been scheduled at area wineries, sports facilities, campgrounds and even the top of the state capitol building. Groups are invited to the Salem Fairgrounds, home of the Oregon State Fair, where the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry will offer a safe and interactive viewing party featuring science lectures and astronomy-related community groups.
For more information, visit travelsalem.com/events/total-solar-eclipse-2017.
With its wide-open spaces, low air pollution and clear skies, sites across the entire state of Wyoming offer prime viewing conditions.
“While the eclipse itself will be stunning, what is sure to make the occasion even more memorable are the numerous eclipse-related community events taking place throughout Wyoming,” said Diane Shober, executive director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism.
In Casper, the Astronomical League of America host its annual conference, AstroCon 2017 in the days leading up to the event. The city also is planning Eclipse Fest, a citywide festival featuring live music, a golf tournament, a fun run and other outdoor activities including hiking, biking, rock climbing, kayaking, white water rafting and sailing.
Local outfitter 307 Adventures welcomes groups to experience Eclipse Edition Historical Tours that showcase stories of the Wild West through the tales of emigrant survivors and those of outlaws who were known to roam the state.
For more information, visit eclipsecasper.com.
Grand Island, Nebraska
With two minutes and 35 seconds of calculated totality, Grand Island, Nebraska, falls within four seconds of the eclipse’s maximum duration window. And with an average of 225 sunny days per year, the odds of clear conditions are projected between 70 to 75 percent.
Organizations in and around Grand Island are finalizing details for the Gem over the Prairie event held on August 21 at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. Interpreters at Stuhr Museum’s Railroad Town will respond to the eclipse in 1890s form and visitors will receive eclipse-viewing glasses before and during the event.
“The Stuhr Museum offers plenty of wide-open space and is very close to the eclipse centerline, making it an ideal location for large groups” said Brad Mellema, executive director of the Grand Island Visitors Bureau.
For more information, visit visitgrandisland.com/visitors/2017-solar-eclipse.html.
Jefferson City, Missouri
Closer to the eclipse centerline than St. Louis or Kansas City, Jefferson City welcomes groups to its capital city for a four-day Capital Eclipse Celebration.
Kicking off with a free concert in downtown Jefferson City on Aug.18, highlights of the festival include education sessions and live entertainment leading up to the day of the solar eclipse. Tours of the Missouri State Penitentiary will be offered on Saturday, Aug. 19 and may appeal to groups interested in public history and paranormal activity.
“Monday’s viewing will take place on the South lawn of the Missouri State Capitol building,” said Katherine Reed, communications manager at the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Witnessing the first total solar eclipse of our lifetime from the state capital will truly be a memorable event.”
For more information, visit capitaleclipse.org.
Columbia, South Carolina
“The Columbia, South Carolina, region is positioned on the centerline of totality and will experience two minutes and 36 seconds of darkness,” said Merritt McNeely, marketing director with the South Carolina State Museum. “Because of this, we’re positioned to be the best location on the East Coast to experience one of the longest eclipse durations in the country.”
The South Carolina State Museum is South Carolina’s 2017 Eclipse Headquarters and one of several attractions offering special programming the weekend before the eclipse. Groups are invited to experience a long weekend of eclipse-related activities, including a space-themed concert by the South Carolina Philharmonic, Columbia Fireflies baseball games, historical walking tours and special astronomy programming at museum’s observatory and planetarium.
During the eclipse, the Solar 17 viewing party at the scenic Lake Murray Dam is one of the best options for groups.
For more information, visit totaleclipsecolumbiasc.com/event.
Article by Julie Henning