Total Solar Eclipse Spurs Watch Events Across U.S.

Find out how communities across the country will mark this rare occasion on August 21.

By Mitra Sorrells July 27, 2017, 7:32 AM EDT

On August 21, the United States will experience its first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in nearly 100 years. The eclipse will travel on a 70-mile-wide path from Oregon to South Carolina, and cities all along that route are planning events to celebrate it.

Photo: NASA/Goddard/SVS/Ernie Wright

On August 21, the Moon will pass between the Earth and sun to create a total solar eclipse across the continental United States, the first time an eclipse will touch our mainland in 38 years (at that time, it only impacted a few states).

This time around, everyone in this country will see at least a partial eclipse, but for most of us, it hardly will be noticeable. However for those under the “path of totality”—a 70-mile-wide diagonal band running from Oregon through Kansas and Tennessee and ending in South Carolina—there will be a period of about two to three minutes of total darkness, happening between about 10:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. local time, depending on the location.

An occurrence so rare—albeit brief—has sparked a variety of watch events, many beginning days before the eclipse to capitalize on the crowds that will be gathering. Here’s a look at some of the activities planned at national parks, museums, hotels, and a variety of other venues.

Solar Eclipse Weekend at the Oregon State Capitol, August 19-21, Salem
Salem is one of five state capitals in the path of totality (the others being Lincoln, Nebraska; Jefferson City, Missouri; Nashville, Tennessee; and Columbia, South Carolina). The event will include a performance by the Salem Philharmonia Orchestra and a narration of the eclipse by astronomers to give viewers the technical names of the various stages.

Oregon Solarfest, August 17-22, Madras
According to the event website, the 325 hotel rooms in the tiny town of Madras have been booked for more than two years. But thousands more people are expected to fill area campgrounds and RV parks. The festival at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds will include musical entertainment, food and beverage vendors, and NASA scientists who will be making presentations and answering questions about the eclipse.

Moonfest Music Festival, August 18-21, Idaho Falls
More than a dozen bands are scheduled to perform. The event will also include food and merchandise vendors, a hypnotist’s show, mechanical bull-riding, and more.

Four Seasons Resort and Residences, August 21, Jackson Hole
Tickets for the viewing party at this luxury resort have been sold out since May. Guests will travel via gondola to an elevation of more than 9,000 feet to view the eclipse from the resort’s Rendezvous Lodge, near the top of the Teton Range. The resort has partnered with Teton Skies, which will be providing solar telescopes for the event and astronomers to answer questions.

Lincoln Salt Dogs, August 21, Lincoln
The city’s professional baseball team is scheduled to play a game beginning at noon local time, so it is marketing it as the “Total Solar Eclipse Game.” Fans will receive a “blackout bundle” (hot dog, chips, soda) with each ticket purchased, scientists from the University of Nebraska—Lincoln will have exhibits, and the first 3,500 fans will receive eclipse-viewing glasses. At 1:02 p.m. Lincoln will be in a total eclipse and the game will be paused for about 1.5 minutes as it passes through.

Capital Eclipse Celebration, August 19-21, Jefferson City
Jefferson City will experience about 2.5 minutes of total eclipse and with the city’s central location and accessibility, local officials are expecting more than 50,000 people to head there for viewing. The celebration at the state capitol will include concerts, NASA’s traveling “Journey to Tomorrow” exhibit, presentations from NASA scientists, and a live broadcast of the eclipse by NASA TV.

Westin Nashville Solar Eclipse Viewing Party, August 21, Nashville
Nashville is the largest city wholly in the path of the total eclipse so dozens of events are planned. The Westin in downtown Nashville is hosting a daylong celebration that includes special room rates, a yoga class and spa gift for guests, and a watch party with entertainment, a specialty cocktail, and solar-viewing glasses at L27, the hotel’s rooftop bar.

Music City Solar Eclipse Festival, August 19-21, Nashville
The Adventure Science Center will host three days of educational programming with speakers from NASA, the National Weather Service, and more, along with entertainment, food trucks, and exhibitors with hands-on demonstrations of 3-D printing, apps, sci-fi makeup, and more.

North Carolina
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, August 21, Cherokee
The entire western half of Great Smoky Mountains National Park will fall under the path of totality for the eclipse, so the park has partnered with NASA, Southwestern Community College, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to provide speakers and storytellers that will explain the science and cultural significance of the eclipse. The event will take place at the remote Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park at 6,643 feet in elevation. NASA TV will broadcast the sold-out event. 

South Carolina
Total Eclipse Weekend, August 18-21, Columbia
This capital city will host more than 100 festivals and events for the thousands of locals and people expected to travel here to view the eclipse. Solar 17 at Lake Murray is expected to attract thousands of people, viewing the eclipse from the 650 miles of shoreline and from boats and rafts on the water. The South Carolina State Museum has already sold out of tickets for its event that will include an appearance by Apollo 16 astronaut and South Carolina native Charles Duke.

Eclipse on a Warship, August 21, Charleston
The U.S.S. Yorktown, at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, will be one of the final locations in the United States to view the total eclipse at 2:46 p.m. The museum will host a variety of events throughout the day including educational programs, children’s activities, and more. NASA will broadcast a live view of the eclipse from two weather balloons that will be launched 100,000 feet in the air.

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