Hopkinsville, KY: The Great American Eclipse 2017

Catching the Solar Eclipse in Cadiz, KY

It all started last Wednesday (August 16) when I found out that I would not be continuing as a Japanese interpreter at Toyota in Georgetown, KY (It was a short term contract and was not renewed). I realized at that time that I would have Eclipse Day off and the opportunity to go witness the solar eclipse in its totality in southwestern Kentucky. Needless to say I was overwhelmingly thrilled!

One view of the Solar Eclipse – photo by David Kravetz

 Excitement mounted as I invited my granddaughter Autumn to join with me.  The first thing I did was to look for solar eclipse glasses. It was a fruitless attempt on Amazon.com at this late stage of the ball game. It was also fruitless in Lexington as dozens of stores had been sold out for a couple of weeks. Finally, m ly daughter located somebody via Facebook marketplace and picked up a couple of the cheap cardboard glasses for eight dollars a piece or two for $15. At least I knew I would have eye protection to witness the event!

In the spirit of the Blues Brothers: I’ve got a full tank of gas, a half a bag of rations, it’s gonna get dark and I’m wearing solar eclipse glasses.

 My next great effort was to find a solar eclipse filter for my Nikon camera. This too was fruitless. Everything was sold out including the Mylar filters. What a bummer!
Despite all of this, I knew that with my Nikon I would be able to at least take photos of the full eclipse and the Corona. So I decided I would settle on that and try to do what I could with my iPhone.

Partial Eclipse as taken with my iPhone (with a solar filter over the lens)

Being a travel blogger and having been to many huge events in the past, I knew that the town of Hopkinsville would be an absolute circus. The small town of 30,000 was expecting anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 visitors from around the country and around the world. So, since I did not have filters, I decided that I would also take some time in Hopkinsville and the surrounding town of Cerulean to get pictures of the solar eclipse “circus.”

Back of someone’s t-shirt

Over the weekend I found out that my granddaughter Autumn could not join me on this trip due to a scheduled volleyball game and so I realized I would have to do it alone. Another bummer, but I would manage.

On the road to Hopkinsville with the sun at my shoulder.

Finally, it was Monday morning — Eclipse Day. I took my wife in to work early so that I could get on the road and hopefully avoid the massive traffic. My daughter Marissa, with her husband and three children were already on their way to Hopkinsville and then onto the Land of Lakes to witness the eclipse from there.

Heavy traffic tied up highway south of Elizabethtown.

It was a beautiful morning and a nice clear day for driving. I full well expected loads of traffic along the way, but the Bluegrass Parkway out of Lexington was not too busy. However, when I arrived at Interstate 65 near Elizabethtown, due to both the eclipse traffic and all of the construction work, there was a big traffic tie up there and I was held up for about 20 minutes.

Field of sunflowers off of I-65

Sunflowers for good luck on Eclipse Day

Ironically, on the loop from Interstate 65 I was able to see a field of sunflowers which brightened my day and was kind of a sign for today! Yes indeed, the sunflowers were a sign to me that all would be well.

As I drove down the Western Parkway in Kentucky heading towards Hopkinsville, I actually saw cars from 20 different states and from the province of Ontario in Canada. I was certain that most of them were headed in the same direction I was, namely to the epicenter of the best viewing location of the eclipse on the globe.

Heading to the eclipse – this car was from New York

Ran into this man from New York at a gas station in Central City, KY

Bumper sticker on a car heading to Hopkinsville

Driving backroads through cornfields to get to Hopkinsville

I decided to take a back road in to Hopkinsville in hopes of seeing things along the way. I did. Twice along the way I had to stop at restrooms and the lines in the restrooms were almost as long as the lines on the freeway. And all of the individuals at the restrooms were from out of state and were headed to Hopkinsville. How ironic…

A sign in the town of Fruit Hill. The first one I saw… miles before Hopkinsville

Welcome to Hopkinsville, KY

 Ultimately, I made my way into Hop-town and indeed, it was a circus-like atmosphere. People had their seats in parks, on the streets and everywhere you can imagine. There were thousands of people in the town. Like a carnival, there were rides and there were numerous food trucks offering everything from funnel cakes to BBQ.
But parking was at a premium. Along the road I saw signs offering parking for the eclipse anywhere is from $10 upwards of $100. In Hopkinsville itself, parking was $30 in the downtown area unless you wanted to risk parking in one of the unmarked business lots.  Following are a few scenes.

Many gathered in the parks and town square

Heading to a spot with camera in hand

Hawking solar eclipse glasses on a corner in Hopkinsville

Some folks enjoyed the 90 degree sun

Local groups got into the act

Hopkinsville has held a “Little Green Men” Days for years

Getting ready to find a place. Of course, decked out in a commemorative T-Shirt

Window display in one of the downtown shops

Eclipse On!

Eclipseville mural near downtown donut shop

Sometime in the past couple of Hopkinsville added a nickname to the town calling themselves “Eclipseville USA.” There were welcome signs with that name as well as a nice Photo Op board downtown and a mural near their donut shop.

I drove around town to capture a few scenes of people taking photos, looking up with their glasses, their solar t-shirts and some of the other unique signs in town including those of churches. It was a fun little adventure, but I did not plan to stay in Hopkinsville for the actual eclipse.

Three of my grandchildren at the Eclipseville Photo Board (courtesy of Marissa Noe)

Sign on the downtown Methodist Church

A Baptist Church posted this

Another Baptist Church sign

A few of the Parking Signs along the way…..

Solar Eclipse Parking

Great Eclipse Viewing Area

Park Here – we have bathrooms

Parking for $20

Park this way

Solar Eclipse Shop

Another parking area near Cerulean

Parking in Cerulean

Instead, I headed north to the small town of Cerulean, which, ironically means a deep sky-blue color.  This small hamlet was the point where the sun, moon, and earth line up most perfectly during the eclipse, that is the “point of greatest eclipse” with an eclipse duration of two minutes and 40 seconds, making it the “point of longest duration.” Being the actual epicenter, NASA had a facility set up there as did all of the news stations with their satellite trucks. There were dozens of tents and thousands of people gathered on numerous farms in the area to witness the spectacle.

News media came out in abundance at point of greatest totality near Cerulean

Newscasters ready for the eclipse

More satellites at the circus

Television crews at the ready

Looking up to the sun

Wherever possible, I tried to capture images of the people gazing up, or in their variety of solar eclipse T-shirts. This was a day of celebration for everybody. I would imagine that it was probably the most photographed event in the history of the world and I was a happy participant in this event.  Here are a number of shots of people from all over the world with all kinds of equipment and glasses.

A man from Michigan

Solar binoculars are nice

It was a hot one….staying hydrated

Having a fun time with 1000s of others

Set up in a McDonald’s parking lot

The eclipse has started

Catching the eclipse

Getting that perfect shot

Using the glasses as a cell phone camera filter

Stationed and ready

Looking up

Watching the eclipse

Great shot!

Waiting

Awesome

No solar glasses? No problem!!

This is how you look at an eclipse through a telescope

People found all sorts of places to park

Shooting from a cornfield

I stopped by one of the farms that was selling a T-shirt so that I could at least have a T-shirt in remembrance of this event. Yes, I am the dumb tourist that likes to have T-shirts to remember events.

People settled in at Church Parking lot to capture the eclipse

Not wanting to pay $30/40 to park my car, I had decided that I would head to a little place called Tiny Town, about 30 miles east of Hopkinsville. Unfortunately, due to traffic, I realized I would not be able to get there in time to set up and witness the eclipse. So, I settled at a little church right off of Interstate 24 near Cadiz that was taking a $10 donation for parking. Almost everyone gathered there were members of their church. They had a nice large parking lot and there were maybe fifty people there. I could see the fast food restaurants over on the Interstate from this spot.

Looking at the Eclipse

These people were really friendly and I was really grateful that I was able to find this location to enjoy the last few minutes of the eclipse and then the totality.

Let the sunshine

I made a makeshift filter for my iPhone using the second pair of glasses that I had. That seemed to work OK, but the iPhone just did not have the zoom capability to pick up the eclipse as it was happening.  Here’s a couple of the best shots I could do.

Partial Eclipse as taken with my iPhone (with a solar filter over the lens)

Orange Starburst

Another kinda blurry shot

As it got very close to the end and to full totality, I watched through my glasses and finally got my camera ready to capture the fill eclipse. I was overwhelmingly pleased with the results!!

First shot of the eclipse

Another nice shot of totality

Totality starting to move away

The “diamond ring” effect begins

Full effect

The sun has come out again and leaves a starburst

 Everything happened so fast!  As the totality began, the sky looked weird and kind of eerie. The street lamps all automatically turned on and the sky out on the horizon all-around had turned pink like sunset. Suddenly, it was dark. Not dark as night, but dark enough for the stars to come out and some of the planets to be seen. Above was this amazing scene of a big black circle with a white wavy halo around it. I could look at it with my naked eye and was awestruck by the beauty and the amazing nature of what I was watching. The people in the church parking lot all let out a great cheer when it hit totality.

The sunset effect in the clouds

 During the time before the totality and after the totality a teenage boy that’s a member of the church had come over to talk to me and asked me where I was from and wanted to share his pictures with me and me share mine with him. I showed him the photos I was able to take with my Nikon as seen above.

One of the Solar Eclipse viewers. He was from Cincinnati

Amazing as these photos might be, they don’t even come close to what was really seen with the naked eye. Around the edge of the moon on the inside of the Corona I could see colors with my naked eye. And there was a strange glow in the air. It was phenomenal and most likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.  Honestly, words cannot describe the experience.

My daughter Marissa was down there and also noticed the unique shadow effects.  This is a picture of my granddaughter Joselyn with the unique moon-shaped shadows just before totality.

Unique shadows. Photo courtesy of Marissa Noe

Another viewer. Not sure where he was from.

After that finished, rather than watching the eclipse continue on,  I immediately moved photos from my Nikon onto my iPhone, got them ready for upload and put them on Facebook so that all of my friends on Facebook and around the world could see what I had seen. I wanted to share this amazing experience with the individuals that would not get to enjoy the same experience and wanted to do so as quickly as possible.

As with any event of this huge nature, the next challenge would be the return trip home. I dictated this entire post to my phone while driving home on the Western Parkway. There were many moments of total parking lot style stopping as well as slow going. It REALLY had become a Parkway!!

Backup on Western Parkway dragged on for miles

The Western Parkway to I-65 Interchange was a mess

I-65 Northbound towards Elizabethtown was also packed

 The majority of the vehicles on the road heading east were from out of state and I am certain that most of them had come from Hopkinsville, Russelville or Land Between the Lakes where they had witnessed the same spectacle that I had. As I sat in my car, I saw cars from New Jersey, Ohio, Massachusetts, Maryland, Texas, Ontario, West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and Indiana.

Eclipesville

This was one of the most grand spectacles that I have ever experienced in my life. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to witness one of the amazing features of nature and one that happens so rarely. I’m grateful that my children and grandchildren in Washington were able to go to Salem, Oregon and see it there. I wish that my wife, my other children and grandchildren could’ve experienced it.  Maybe we can catch the next one on April 8, 2024.  Indianapolis will be in the path of totality and the eclipse will last for a whopping 4 minutes.  I am getting ready for it already!!

Crowds gathered in fields and farms all over Christian County

Shooting the Eclipse – a wonderful experience

 And this is my report on the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017.

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