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Experience eclipses the hype of the total solar eclipse of 2024

Above clockwise) Michiganders Don and Anne Fairchild at Motter Park, Ten Thousand Villages guest list, 1861 Wine Lounge sky gazers.

What was your eclipse viewing experience? Send up to 50 words and a photograph or two to [email protected] or tag @blufftonicon on Facebook. Deadline Thursday, April 11.

By Paula Pyzik Scott

As I write this, it’s just a few hours after the total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8, 2024. Given traffic jam horror stories from similar events, I decided early on to stay put in Bluffton. But it began to dawn on me on Sunday that perhaps being in the path of totality was not going to double the population of our little town–a possibility for which emergency services were prepared.

A 10:00 a.m. spin around town showed that instead of a once-in-100-years feel, the day took on the aspect of an annual holiday. Folks strolling downtown came from all over the country, but they were mostly visiting family and friends. Even the University of Wyoming Space Cowboys who came to Bluffton to set off weather balloons had an area connection.

At Southgate Lanes, owner Derek Dukes said they were prepared for however the day would unfold. They opened early and were ready to display the ONU webcast of the event. The Facebook advertised special of eclipse (burned) grilled cheese was not in sight.

Several shopkeepers said that it felt like Christmas, with many customers coming for family reunions. Bluffton’s Ten Thousand Villages displayed a chalkboard listing of where the weekend’s travelers came from. A large contingent of Basingers stood outside the Black Lab Trading company, looking up to the place where their ancestor Evan Basinger once practiced dentistry. 

Service stations on State Route 103 showed no lines for gas and no signs of shortages. The only outage I found was hot dog and hamburger buns at Community Market, where it was eerily quiet at 2:30 p.m.

In the early afternoon, I chatted with day trippers at Village Park and Motter Park. A friendly group of 20 engineers and science-based professionals from the Detroit metro area offered to share their charcuterie. They had a Bluffton connection, with former resident (and Icon reader) Kevin Flory being among their number. Three couples I spoke to were also from southwest Michigan, drawn here to escape the crowds of other locations accessible from I-75.

While none I spoke to claimed to be a serious photographer, many came prepared with tripods, special gear and homemade devices to help them capture images of the total solar eclipse. Michiganders Anne and Don Fairchild had two setups, one with a cardboard box to shield the viewfinder and another with a kitchen colander to create a multitude of suns on a white surface.

As it drew near to the Duration of Totality – when the moon totally covered the sun for almost four minutes – I made my way downtown. What would that familiar village-scape look like during the eclipse?

I gathered with a dozen or so people in front of 1861 Wine Lounge and spied others on top of the three-story Shirley’s Gourmet Popcorn building, enjoying the dramatic transformation of the town and the progression of the eclipse.

It requires special eclipse glasses to view the moon moving across the face of the sun. Under normal conditions, you see nothing when you look through them.

The change in the quality and brightness of daylight was ever so gradual during the first and last hour of the eclipse. But in the five or so minutes before and after totality the change was dramatic.

The high thin clouds were no barrier to seeing the moon start to nibble into the circle of the sun. The sight enthralled those around me. When the sun was totally covered, I removed my eye protection to see the corona, the external white ring, and other elements visible to the human eye. For a glossary of eclipse terms see

For those around me, there was an evident adrenaline rush and an experience to discuss and treasure. Those fifteen minutes or so were the reason for all the hype and preparations, thrilling to view whether you are part of a cluster or a crowd.