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How Americans in the solar eclipse’s path of totality plan to celebrate the celestial event on April 8, 2024

On Monday, April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will be visible from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. 

Americans in the path of totality, which will cross the mainland from Texas through Maine, will experience a few minutes of night-like darkness in the middle of the day — and for that brief time, some have planned once-in-a-lifetime moments.

Van views in Del Rio, Texas 

Though Jason Bernert lived in Oregon in 2017, when the last solar eclipse reached totality near Salem, he skipped it. He didn’t get the hype, he said.

“Then I heard everybody else that went down to totality, like my sister and family, and they were like, it was life-changing,” Bernert said.

This year, he and his girlfriend will watch the eclipse in what NASA says will be one of the first American cities to go dark: Del Rio, Texas. The couple set out from Washington, D.C., after Thanksgiving in 2023 in an RV to visit national parks, and by the end of March, the couple was in Texas.

He said he’s not sure what he’ll feel — but that’s why he wants to go, and share the experience with his girlfriend.

“I think it’s already so exciting that she and I have shared such a big part of our trip together,” Bernert said. “And I think to have this big  celestial payoff of an eclipse will hopefully just like be a really big cherry on top.”

A mass eclipse wedding in Russellville, Arkansas

Once the solar eclipse moves through Texas, it will cover part of the Midwest, including Russellville, Arkansas, where more than 300 couples will weave their future together at a mass wedding.

There the eclipse will last four minutes and 12 seconds, with totality occurring at 1:50 p.m. CT. 

Rodney Williams, a hot air balloonist from Branson, Missouri, is used to turning the skies into attractions. He organized the event as part of the city’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” festival.

“Within about 24 hours, I had almost 20 couples,” Williams said. The event offers marrying couples cake, a non-alcoholic toast and music — for free.

“Sometimes planning a wedding can be stressful,” Williams said. “Not only the money but just all the decision-making and all of the different ideas that may not all coincide with each other.”

So on April 8, when the eclipse begins, Craig Wayne Boyd, a winner of “The Voice” singing contest, will officiate the ceremony and more than 600 newlyweds will have their first dance as he sings “Golden.”

Meditation and manifestation in Lake Erie, New York

Natan Dahlkemper was engaged to be married on April 8. The idea crossed their mind during the 2017 solar eclipse in Tennessee, where Dahlkemper experienced totality with their community.

Coming together with 1,000 other queer people was inspiring, Dahlkemper said — life-changing, especially being among people viewing the eclipse in a similar way. 

On Monday, that will happen again. 

Although Dahlkemper is no longer getting married, they will host people in the LGBTQ+ community from all over the country at a Lake Erie, New York, farm, where the eclipse will reach totality after 3 p.m. ET.

“A lot of the celebrations are going to be very corporate,” Dahlkemper said. “I couldn’t imagine being in that environment during this cosmic event.”

Over five days, dozens of people in Dahlkemper’s community will gather. They will first work together to set up communal spaces, including a dance club in a barn. There will be yoga meditations to set intentions for the eclipse, and a ceremony to honor queer ancestors and the Earth’s elements. They will also host an event to decorate eclipse glasses.

“The sun and the moon and the Earth are putting on a show for us,” Dahlkemper said.

“I think that if you celebrate it alone, or really don’t put intention to it, you won’t get as much out of it — you’ll wish that you were in a more intentional space with people.” 

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