NEWBERRY, SC — Columns of cars steadily poured into South Carolina from back roads and interstates Monday morning, filled with tourists ready to be “mooned” by the total solar eclipse passing through the Palmetto State.
Greenville, Columbia and Charleston were prime urban locations for seeing the biggest spectacle of the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, but so were smaller towns like Newberry that made the most of the big day.
Newberry, a small liberal arts college town about 40 miles outside of Columbia, was a NASA designated watch site and hosted an eclipse day watch party on its Main Street. It was the culminating event of a weekend festival. (Get Patch real-time email alerts for the latest news in Charlotte — or other neighborhoods. And iPhone users: Check out Patch’s new app.)
Days of lead up and preparation were all focused on 2:40 p.m., when for 2 minutes and 32 seconds, Main Street would grow dark.
And boy, did it.
Leading into the big moment, the sky went shadowy grey and street lights lining the town square flickered to life in front of the Opera House. Cicadas began to buzz in the trees, sawing an overpowering chorus the likes of which yours truly, a lifelong southerner, has never heard. Were the end times upon us? A 10-second countdown began over a loud speaker and the folks became more restless. “3… 2… 1!” an announcer called out as the moon ever so slowly, slowly slid into position, blocking the sun and forming a perfect celestial halo of light.
The crowd of eclipse peepers filled Main Street, necks and cell phones cranked skywards, all gasping in delight. The din of the cicadas was overcome by cheering and clapping. For 2 mins and 32 seconds, everyone stood transfixed and mesmerized by what they were seeing. Then, just as quickly as it began, it was over. The perfect alignment was gone and the sun began to regain its reign in the afternoon sky.
Many in the crowd had traveled great distances to be there in that moment. While my journey to Newberry’s main street was only a 200-mile round trip, it was one that would end up taking more than eight hours of driving, all to stand in the middle of a road in daytime darkness for 2 mins and 32 seconds with thousands of strangers.
Was it worth it? Absolutely.
Where did you watch the eclipse? Tell us about it in the comment section.
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Originally published August 25, 2017.