Local, Mauldin, Nature

Eclipse Crowds Gather At Conestee Park

On August 21st, excitement rose with the moon during the total eclipse at Conestee Park in Mauldin. According to the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA), the rare event occurred last in the continental U.S around 1979. Back then, the path of totality wouldn’t have reached the Upstate. This year, it was South Carolina’s turn to experience the natural phenomenon. With hotels booked and heavy traffic in the area, it brought visitors from around the U.S. and the world. All the eclipse hype didn’t disappoint, it was a spectacular sight and unforgettable experience.

My boyfriend Kyle, our friend Matt, and I decided Conestee Park would be the perfect open space to view the eclipse. As we pulled into the large parking lot, it was fairly full of people with the same idea. News vehicles, local residents, and out-of-towners tailgated patiently to get a glimpse of totality. The hot sun reached 93 degrees and the sky was clear of clouds, so people gathered under trees and tents for shade. There was a hum of happy conversations around us between friends, families, and strangers. Others propped special cameras and telescopes on the lawn for a more professional view.

With a picnic blanket in hand, we managed to find a spot under a tree. Before it began, we put the glasses on and looked at the sun. It glowed orange against the black lenses and I couldn’t help but be filled with wonder at the infinite sky. While we waited for totality, we sat in our chairs and enjoyed each other’s company. Occasionally, we’d snap pictures of the sun and see half-moons appear in our photos.

Just before the moon broke over the sun, the light dimmed to an evening streetlight glow and crickets sang songs of nighttime. A passer by described it best, “It looks like I just woke up from a nap,” she said. We stood up as totality approached and looked at the sun side-by-side. On the ground, shadows squiggled snake-like patterns on the pavement. At approximately 2:38 p.m., the moon made its full transition over the sun. Giddy like kids on Christmas morning, mother Earth presented us with the gift of a total eclipse.

The brilliant diamond ring of sun encircled the moon and twilight laid a blanket of darkness around us. People were gasping, hollering, and clapping with awe-inspiring excitement while inching a little closer to loved ones. During the short two minutes, we popped Champaign and toasted totality. A million photos and descriptions could never capture reality, but we can use them to relive the glorious historical moment. There won’t be another total eclipse in the Upstate for 60 years. I can only hope to experience it again, but am thankful I got at least one chance to witness nature’s miracle.♦

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