Heads up downstate for solar eclipse

CARBONDALE — Crowds looked to the heavens throughout Illinois on Monday for a glimpse of the first full-blown solar eclipse to traverse the U.S. in nearly a century, packing sites in prime viewing locations in the south of the state and ducking out of offices for cloud-obscured looks in Chicago.

In Carbondale, which fell in a 60- to 70-mile-wide corridor stretching from Oregon to South Carolina that enjoyed a total eclipse, about 14,000 people, including the governor, packed the Southern Illinois University football stadium for a viewing event that was months in the making. Organizers passed out safety glasses, the marching band performed and the eclipse was streamed live on the stadium big screens. Twenty-person suites at the sold-out event sold for $10,000.

Clouds appeared about 6 minutes before the eclipse reached totality and the crowds started cheering them away, said Rae Goldsmith, a school spokeswoman.

“During totality when it was dark it was very quiet,” she said. “There was a moment of awe. At the end people were giving each other high fives.”

Another popular spot to view the rare celestial event was in the shadow of the Bald Knob Cross of Peace in Alto Pass, which is about 10 miles southwest of Carbondale.

Patrick Schueck, a 44-year-old construction company president from Little Rock, Arkansas, brought his 10-year-old twin daughters Ava and Hayden to watch the eclipse under the 100-foot-tall cross, which sits atop a 1,000-foot-high mountain.

Schueck said the girls weren’t that interested at first, with one daughter looking at her iPhone.

“Quickly that changed,” Schueck said. “It went from them being aloof to being in total amazement.”

Schueck called it a chance of a lifetime to do something memorable with his children.

“It was one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had,” he said. “It was almost religious.”

Clouds obscured the view in Chicago, but that didn’t dissuade office workers from playing hooky for a few minutes to soak in the muted light outside. The Adler Planetarium on the city’s lakefront also held an eclipse block party.

–Associated Press

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