The last time a total eclipse of the sun was visible from Kansas was 99 years ago. But in two weeks, it will happen again. On August 21, people gathered in extreme northeast Kansas will get to see the sun completely blacked out by the moon. Small Kansas towns in the so-called "path of totality" have been working to capitalize on this rare celestial event. Guest Commentator Ron Wilson tells us about one woman who's been trying to make the most out of the eclipse in her own community.
Guest Commentator Ron Wilson is the director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University. He writes about all kinds of cool Kansans in his series Kansas Profiles.
(TRANSCRIPT / the audio version of this transcript was edited and modified for radio.)
Kansas Profile: Adrienne Korson, Doniphan County and the Solar Eclipse
By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
“A once-in-a-lifetime experience.” That phrase is often overused in our modern society, but it would apply literally to an upcoming event in Kansas: A total eclipse of the sun. The last time a total solar eclipse was visible in Kansas was 99 years ago. In August 2017, a total eclipse of the sun will be visible in northeast Kansas. Adrienne Korson is director of economic development for Doniphan County in the northeast corner of Kansas. Adrienne grew up in Indiana. While exploring colleges, she made the impulsive decision to take a road trip to Kansas. Here she found Benedictine College. “It was a perfect fit,” Adrienne said.
Adrienne graduated in economics and business management. She had gotten an internship with Doniphan County and then served as interim director of economic development. On April 1, 2016, she took the permanent position as director.
“The first thing I did was to completely redo the website,” Adrienne said. “We created enhanced business pages for businesses in Doniphan County so that they could enhance their web presence, and created links for all the towns in the county.”
One day, Adrienne got a call from a Kansas City Star reporter who asked about a future solar eclipse in the region. “It was the first I had heard of it,” Adrienne said. She did some research and got excited.
A solar eclipse takes place when the moon is in position to totally block the sun and provide a passing shadow over the earth. Such eclipses are not uncommon around the globe, but are not usually seen in Kansas.
Scientists reported that, on Aug. 21, 2017, a total eclipse of the sun would be visible in a narrow geographic band across central North America. The heart of that narrow band, where the eclipse lasts longest, is called the path of totality.
Adrienne realized that the path of totality went directly through Doniphan County. It was generating interest around the nation and beyond. In January 2017, Adrienne held a community meeting with a presentation by a Benedictine College professor who explained that this solar eclipse would be a rare and remarkable event.
“Being in the path of totality is like winning the lottery,” Adrienne said. “That was the key message from his presentation.”
The county mobilized to take advantage of this celestial opportunity. Using the motto “Eclipse in the Heartland,” a logo was developed. (The Highland Community College graphics department did an online version.)
Lots of events have been planned on the Sunday before and the Monday of the eclipse. Most events are held in the county seat of Troy, including a beer garden, live music and entertainment, hot dog eating contest, 5K run, and lots of vendors and food options. Organized events are also being held in Highland and Elwood, plus private viewing parties are expected in rural towns like Severance, population 94, and Leona, population 48 people. Now, that’s rural.
The eclipse lasts about three hours from start to finish, although the totally dark part is fairly brief. The partial eclipse is expected to start around 11:40 a.m., and the total eclipse at around 1:05 p.m. If the viewer is closer to the path of totality, then the total eclipse lasts longer.
“The total eclipse lasts about two minutes and 40 seconds,” Adrienne said. “We will see the eclipse for about two minutes and 38 seconds.” Viewers must wear eclipse glasses or welding helmets to prevent eye damage while viewing the sun, except during the total phase of the eclipse.
Atchison, Hiawatha and Marysville plus other northeast Kansas communities are planning watch events also. The Flint Hills Discovery Center is partnering with K-State and Highland Community College on a bus trip from Manhattan to the viewing area.
“I understand scientists from the Vatican are coming to Atchison,” Adrienne said. “This is a huge deal for our area.” For more information, see www.dpcountyks.com.
Once-in-a-lifetime. That phrase would literally apply to this northeast Kansas solar eclipse. We salute Adrienne Korson and all those involved for making a difference by building on this celestial phenomenon. It might be the experience of a lifetime.
The mission of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is to enhance rural development by helping rural people help themselves. The Kansas Profile radio series and columns are produced with assistance from the K-State Research and Extension Department of Communications News Media Services unit.