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ECLIPSED: Celestial event draws global audience to Keizer

Of the Keizertimes

After months of build-up, and more than a little anxiety, the Great American Eclipse came and went all too quickly for most viewers Monday, Aug. 21.

“It’s was a whirlwind, but we were able to pull it off. Everyone was respectful and friendly and took great care of our park, and the big payoff this morning made it all worth it,” said City Councilor Marlene Parsons, who spearheaded the organization of the Keizer Eclipse event at Keizer Rapids Park.

Parsons and other city councilors who participated in the all-weekend effort recapped the event at the Keizer city council meeting the evening following the eclipse.

The Keizer Eclipse event in Keizer Rapids Park drew visitors from several continents and numerous states and all of them turned to stare at the sun as it appeared behind the moon, eliciting, oohs, ahhs, and a general excited ruckus.

Alan O’Connell, along with wife Emma and daughter Rudy, traveled all the way from London to snag a spot on the big lawn.

“I definitely wanted to see it, there was one years ago in the UK, but it was cloudy and I missed that chance,” said Alan, who described himself as a astronomy enthusiast, but by no means a die-hard. “We looked at many places, but it came down to here or Solarfest and this was a bit cheaper.”

The O’Connells arrived at 1 p.m. on Saturday and already had rave reviews of the park’s Big Toy.

“It’s brilliant and the xylophone thing is great. That’s probably the best playground we’ve ever been to,” Alan said.

“We’ve only been in this park so far, but it’s really beautiful. We are really happy that we came here because the set-up is just perfect,” Emma added.

Denis Vrba and Judson Barnes traveled down from Vancouver, British Columbia, and Vrba  brought with him a friend, Denis Stoltz, from Sudetenland. The trio visited and took pictures with Mayor Cathy Clark before settling in for the night.

Vrba was most impressed with the people he’d seen around the park as volunteers.

“There are so many people active and involved,” he said.

Barnes said there were some things not that different from home.

“Most of B.C. is on fire right now and we came to Oregon and it’s the same thing,” he joked.

Manon and Maarten Van Wamel, who also live in B.C., were hosting a nephew from their native Netherlands and decided to make the trip to Oregon almost on a lark.

Manon said the reasonable price for the location made it ideal.

She and Maarten had both seen an eclipse in 1991, but they were more prepared to enjoy it this time around.

“I was working at an airport the first time and the biggest thing was everything went silent, which is unusual for an airport,” Manon said.

“I was in a forested area and we were laying down on ground. You could see the shadow approach and go away,” Maarten said.

Their nephew Floris Reininga and his girlfriend Laura Vingelvein already planned to visit Canada but the eclipse opportunity came up unexpectedly.

“We had no clue,” Floris said.

The group took advantage of the trip to Oregon to visit the Canby Rodeo, which was another highlight for Laura, a horse enthusiast.

“It was awesome and so cool,” Laura said.

Visitors from Brazil, Tijuana, Japan and Australia had all checked into the camp by the end of the weekend. The event, a fundraiser for the Keizer Parks Foundation, is expected to bring in upward of $30,000 when the final tallies come in, Parsons said.

Keizer’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) provided a variety of services 24/7 at Keizer Rapids Park, including patrolling the area for fire hazards and an around-the-clock first aid station.

“We saw at least 25 patients with issues ranging from a cracked collar bone to heat stroke and tons of bandages and bee stings,” said Linda Pantalone, CERT coordinator. “We provided a great customer service station where folks stopped by to visit or get directions and information. Our central location made it a great stop for families and their pets.”

Across town, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes made the most of the eclipse by hosting the first-ever eclipse-delayed baseball game. The Volcanoes hosted visitors from six continents, 34 states and even representatives of NASA who spoke about the eclipse-related science before the game.

Clark said viewing the eclipse with the nearly 6,000 people in attendance at the stadium helped her understand the hubbub surrounding totality.

“It was absolutely phenomenal, and I understand why people want to be in the zone of totality,” Clark said.