The 2017 Solar Eclipse is going to go down in history as the event of a lifetime for this generation. Someday, I think everyone will ask, “Where were you when Totality happened?”
And I will answer that I was in Columbia, Missouri on a hosted press trip seeing history unfold. There was nothing quite like seeing the world go dark and witness a sunset in the midst of the early afternoon. I was reminded how powerful nature is and how powerless we really are. God lined it all up, the sun, the moon and the Earth and then the sun dimmed and the shadows fell. It was as eventful as the astronomers said it would be. Once every 500 years or so Columbia is in the path of a total solar eclipse, and amazingly, I was lucky enough to be in its path as well!
The eclipse celebration was a two-night, three-day event. My friend Rose Hammitt and I headed south on August 19th and immersed ourselves in Eclipse art, local stops and the climax of the weekend, the Total Eclipse. Our first stop was to tour beautiful Connor’s Cave and the Devil’s Ice Box in the nearby Missouri state park (see previous post).
Afterwards, we visited the Boone County Historical Society to see the Eclipse art of locals Veteran’s. It was neat to see a local take on this event in a community in the path of Totality.
Jo Duncan, Director of Media Relations for The Beenders Walker Group warned us that the eclipse weekend was also the weekend that students were moving into Mizzou to go back to school, so it was a busy time indeed, but the students, their parents and the locals just added to the festive air. We met up with Jo and went downtown to dine at the Sycamore Restaurant. This cool upscale dining offers New American fare from local sources. Sycamore was open special hours for the Eclipse and was doing a brisk business.
Before heading out we met our first out of stater that had come to town for the Eclipse. He was a physicist from Pennsylvania, and later on the day of the eclipse, we would see him and his wife set up with some very official looking telescopes to capture the big event.
In downtown, Columbia, there is public art everywhere and we noticed this when we had breakfast with Jo at Ernies. “This is a local hangout, and has been around for a long time,” Jo shared.
She said often students that worked there during their college years often return for reunions and that in some cases there are generations of Mizzou and Stephen College graduates that have worked at this iconic diner. Besides offering a great breakfast there is also a famous art connection. Chester Gould, the creator of Dick Tracy provided original art to Ernie the original owner that opened Ernie’s in 1934. Chester’s daughter attended Stephens College in the 1940’s, and he would always come into Ernie’s when visiting his daughter. In the restaurant visitors can view an original Gould drawing.
After filling up we headed next door to Artlandish a local gallery where local artists show and sell their work. The store doesn’t look that big from the outside, but you go downstairs in what Jo referred to as the catacombs and there is art and more art. Rose and I both bought jewelry and some pottery dishes from Urban Art. Jennifer Market, a local photographer checked us out and said that artists share working at this great place that gives visitors a chance to own a piece of art at a reasonable price. Artlandish I learned is in the North Village Arts District. There were Eclipse T-shirts on sale, but perhaps the coolest art and Eclipse connection we found was at Wildy’s World. Stacy “Wildy” Self offers collaborative murals and she had a sign out front encouraging families or individuals to come in and for $10.00 add to the Eclipse Mural. “This is for the Eclipse Totality. I invite everyone to work on large art works,” Stacy explained.
We also stopped at the local farmer’s market and added a few more items to our sacks before heading to Les Bourgeois Vineyards bistro for a light lunch and blufftop view. Perched above the Missouri River, we parked and met with some bike riders that were from a news station that were taking part in the Totality Bike Ride. They had traveled from Fargo, North Dakota by bus, then biked from Columbia to Rocheport where the winery is located. After hiking our way from the lot to the overlook, we met up with another couple who were serious bikers also from Fargo here to see the eclipse.
Les Bourgeois Bistro during the Eclipse weekend they had a special menu and in fact they were totally booked for the eclipse. Lorena, our server the day before they had 500 visitors and expected another 500 on the day we were there. The day of the Eclipse Lorena said the entire winery was rented out by the National Astronomical Society. On our way out of town we stopped at the Les Bourgeois Tasting Room and bought an Eclipse T-shirt to mark our visit.
We wrapped up the day at the Totality Music Fest at Cosmopolitan Park. This great location offered us a bit of shade under a tree as we visited with volunteers and our new friend Sarge helped direct traffic and visitors. During our stay we saw a stunt bike show, heard the wrap up of Violet & the Undercurrents and most of the Belairs perform before fatigue claimed us. We left the park and headed to Juan Jalepenos an authentic Mexican restaurant close to our hotel, the Courtyard Marriott.
Monday, the day of the Eclipse!
The Courtyard Marriott had their very own Eclipse Party so Rose and I decided to stay for it although there were other equally great events all over the city including Cosmopolitan Park and Gans Creek, where many of the serious viewers set up.
While waiting for the eclipse, we met Honey Book, who traveled from Maryland with her husband to see her daughter and grandson and watch the eclipse. She asked how long Rose and I had known each other and we explained our longstanding connection that included husbands and other family members. She shared a word that she said fits just perfect when people meet and bond. She said the Hebrew word, “beshert” means to come together.
It was so nice meeting people from all over the states and in some places the world who converged in Columbia to witness the eclipse in the path of Totality.
The Eclipse party offered a nice array of food and drinks. We ate a small lunch, and joined the crowd that was gathering to watch history unfold. There was a circus like atmosphere with live music and juggling and hula hoop acts. At the end of the eclipse there was a fire eater and a fire juggler that lit up the darkened twilight that the eclipsed sun created. Three young women from Springfield, Missouri had come to see the eclipse. They were quite innovative and had taken their sunglasses lenses and put them in their phones so they were able to get great pictures. While we were all gathered at one end of the parking lot, at the other end, the more serious and studious viewers from Pennsylvania and Texas were set up with their equipment.
Everyone was equipped with the proper glasses and caught the movements of the sun and moon overhead. Some even just lay on the ground to get the best view. At 1:12, Totality occurred and for a few moments, time stood still. The corona or ring around the moon was like molten gold. We felt a bit like a 1950’s documentary seeing everyone with their robotic eclipse glasses trying to get the best view.
A loud applause culminated in the end of the eclipse. Everyone was happy and honored to have seen this event. August 21st will long be remembered. Document for future reference, just where you were when the 2017 Total Eclipse went down!