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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

‘This is Phenomenal’

Visitors flock to Evansville to experience the solar eclipse

Some of the hundreds of people gathered on Evansville’s Downtown riverfront April 8 for the Great American Eclipse traveled long distances — literally cross-country in some instances — to experience being in the path of totality.

Explore Evansville and other officials anticipated upward of 80,000 people would come into the region. Up and down the riverfront, the hunt was on for T-shirts and other souvenirs as the skies began to darken.

It was David McBride’s second time seated in the path of totality. He experienced the August 2017 eclipse in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, when he was 85. This time, the Owensboro, Kentucky, native traveled to Evansville with his son and a soon-to-be grandson-in-law. While his son, Marty, took photos, David and Alex Kretzer took it all in.

“I loved it,” David, 92, said. “Glad I got to see it at my age.”

Those who came northbound from Nashville, Tennessee, and southbound from Chicago, Illinois, say highway traffic was busy as they approached Evansville. Dennis and Marlene McKenna, a retired police officer and nurse respectively, pulled out of their driveway in Chicagoland before dawn.

“We left at 5 in the morning, and we made all the traffic lights, but we’re here,” Dennis said with a laugh.

Russell and Holly Hanberry traveled from Nashville with their friend, Jason Connelly. They were in the path of totality for the 2017 solar eclipse that skirted Evansville, “and once you see it once, you kind of want to keep seeing it,” Russell said while setting up cameras.

Many on the riverfront expressed relief that the early morning cloud cover in Evansville dissipated. “This is phenomenal. We lucked out,” said Billy Corr from Nashville, who was hunting for an eclipse T-shirt.

Mary and Steve LaBelle also came from Nashville, but they were in Florida previously. Some creative planning brought them to Evansville for the Great American Eclipse, where they stood on the riverfront and eagerly anticipated what they were about to witness.

“We’re snowbirds in Florida on our way back to Iowa,” Mary said.

Josh Pena and Chase Kelchner also journeyed north from Nashville with their Boston terriers, Jewel and Olivia. Josh said that friends who initially planned to watch the eclipse from Paducah, Kentucky, turned around because of the cloudy weather, but both Josh and Chase enjoyed their spot on Evansville’s riverfront. They chose Evansville because there were “more things going on,” Josh said, as well as open venues and businesses.

Their impression of the eclipse was “incredible.”

Justin and Jessica McClain drove up from Nashville with their children Ruby, 2, and Jonah, 4. They viewed the eclipse from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in 2017 and decided they would drive to the next one if they could. They came to Evansville at the recommendation of Jessica’s father, who said Evansville was a nicer city.

Watching a solar eclipse, “You feel very small and insignificant,” Jessica said.

Kyle Priske and his wife, Brittney, journeyed to Southwestern Indiana from Ventura County, California, to see the moon’s path fully cross that of the sun.

The Priskes were set up on the riverfront, amid a sea of fellow umbraphiles as well as food trucks, and local and regional news media on hand to capture the event. The couple said they were enjoying Evansville and how the city had planned for the influx of guests.

“It’s a clean city, and this is a pretty nice event,” Kyle said. “We didn’t know this street fair would be going on.”

Julia Ellis visited from Georgia and stayed at a Crawford County campground in English, Indiana, to view the total eclipse. She did not want to deal with the traffic in Tennessee, so Evansville was the next city on her list. Ellis noted that the people standing next to her had high energy that matched the shouts and hollers of other enthusiasts.

“The crowd really sold it,” she said.

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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