At about lunchtime on Monday, Aug. 21, the moon and sun will align, and parts of Nebraska will experience darkness in the day.
Astronomy buffs, tourism agencies and educators have been preparing for the once-in-a-lifetime Great American Eclipse for years and have some exciting events planned that will give kids, families and adults unique adventures and opportunities in addition to experiencing the eclipse.
Sky-diving during the eclipse, presentations by NASA astronauts and Bill Nye the Science Guy, prairie trail rides and an eclipse baseball game are some of the unique events planned around the state.
Beatrice: Bill Nye the Science Guy will join the rangers at Homestead National Monument of America on Monday, Aug. 21, to highlight the new Eclipse Explorer Junior Ranger program and narrate during the eclipse. Nye will join Amy Mainzer, host of PBS Kids’ “Ready Jet Go,” to walk visitors through 90 minutes of eclipse phases as they watch.
Activities are planned for the entire day at the Heritage Center starting at 8 a.m. and include hands-on activities, such as making moon zingers and pinhole eclipse viewers. NASA professionals may be in attendance, and musical guests the String Beans will entertain kids and families.
Science and space-themed events are planned the entire weekend leading up the eclipse and on the day of the eclipse. Beatrice will experience 2 minutes and 35 seconds of totality.
Check the website https://www.nps.gov/home/total-solar-eclipse-at-homestead-national-monument-of-america.htm for more information on eclipse events in Beatrice.
Lincoln: A science fair and an eclipse baseball game are planned in our Capitol city, which will experience a total eclipse for 1 minute, 24 seconds. Events are planned the entire weekend prior to the eclipse, and a Total Solar Eclipse Game featuring the Lincoln Saltdogs will take place starting at noon on August 21. The game will pause during the eclipse. Advance tickets and t-shirts are available now.
According to the Lincoln Visitor’s Bureau, Haymarket Park will be the gathering point for the public and a venue for a science and engineering exposition. The science fair during the game will feature demonstrations and information booths organized by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln science and engineering departments and are free and open to the public throughout the game. UNL’s Aerospace Club will demonstrate radio-controlled aircraft, robotics and rocketry, and a UNL professor will set up an “Antarctic Time Machine,” which is an interactive exhibit focused on climate change.
For more information, including science-related events for kids and families the entire Aug. 18-20 weekend, visit http://www.lincoln.org/play/eclipse
Grand Island: With an expected darkness of 2 minutes and 34 seconds, Grand Island is the largest Nebraska city in the area of total darkness. The Stuhr Museum will host a free public event, the “Gem Over the Prairie” eclipse viewing event starting at 8 a.m. on Aug. 21. The solar eclipse will begin at 12:58 p.m. in Grand Island. Food trucks will be available, and Nebraska musician Paul Siebert will perform. NASA will be launching a balloon several hours before the eclipse from the Stuhr Museum to gather information from the eclipse from different angles. This event is free and open to the public.
Visit www.stuhrmuseum.org/special-events/gem-over-the-prairie-eclipse-event for more information and to find out from Dan Glomski, senior educator at Aurora’s Edgerton Explorit Center, about the rarity of total solar eclipses. (Glomski said the last total solar eclipse in Grand Island was April 22, 1194, and the next total solar eclipse in Grand Island will be July 31, 2744!)
Holdrege: Although Holdrege is just outside the path of total darkness, thrill seekers will get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go sky-diving during the eclipse, and kids can visit the Nebraska 150th birthday mobile children’s museum.
YEP (Youth Empowered By Play) is a group that is raising funds to build a local playground for kids with disabilities. They are raffling chances for two people to go sky-diving during the eclipse. The experience was donated by Sean Tillery at Sky Dive Atlas in Holdrege.
Jamie Hazlett, the group’s president, said the group has raised $207,966 in the past year for the playground and need just $18,000 more. She hopes this fund-raiser will put a dent in that amount.
“It’s a historical opportunity,” Hazlett said. “If anyone is ever thinking about sky diving, this is the perfect opportunity.”
Raffle tickets are $5 for one chance and $20 for five chances and are available by calling Hazlett at (308) 991-1054 or message YEP on Facebook. The winner will be announced on July 28.
The Mobile Children’s Museum will be in Holdrege on Aug. 21 and 22 at the Nebraska Prairie Museum.
Ravenna/Kearney: Ravenna and Kearney are working together on entire weekend of events leading up to the eclipse. Highlights include a visit by NASA astronaut Edward Michael Fincke and a giant watch party at Cope Stadium on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus. Kearney will experience nearly two minutes of darkness starting just before 1 p.m., while Ravenna will experience 2 minutes and 35 seconds.
Doors to Cope Stadium will open at 10:30 a.m. There is no admission. Eclipse “glasses” (needed to safely watch the eclipse) are available for everyone who enters the stadium for the event, with 10,000 available. Concessions will be open for lunch offerings. Media sponsor NRG Media will entertain the crowd with music, interactive games and trivia, and prizes. Educational experts will comment and give eclipse updates throughout the event.
The cities are even selling t-shirts for the occasion. A “bucket list” t-shirt sells for $15, and glow-in-the-dark total eclipse shirts sell for $17.
For more information on events all weekend in Ravenna and Kearney, visit solareclipseravenna.com.
Tryon: Many Nebraskans may never have heard of tiny Tryon, population 157. But, this town just north of North Platte, will be in the path of total darkness during the eclipse (for 2 minutes and 34 seconds) and plans to welcome thousands of visitors for a weekend of events and a prairie watch party. On eclipse day, Dusty Trails will lead prairie tours on horse-drawn wagon rides or horseback trail rides. The cost is $10 per person or $35 per family. Other events include sod house tours, a petting zoo and a pit BBQ after the eclipse. Similar events are also planned for Sunday, Aug. 20, in Tryon, including the tours and trail rides.
Many other Nebraska towns are also planning eclipse events. Just search the town and eclipse to find out more.