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Northerners like their dose of southern Illinois hospitality.

Byline: Travis DeNeal

HARRISBURG -- Harrisburg, known as the Gateway to the Shawnee National Forest, saw its fair share of visitors on Aug. 21, 2017, as eclipse-seekers tried to find a perfect -- and less crowded -- place to watch.

"Today's my 60th birthday, and I thought, why not spend my 60th birthday at the totality of the eclipse?" said Michael Bidegain, from Oswego.

Bidegain was in the Shawnee National Forest headquarters Monday morning, getting information and suggestions about viewing sites.

On Eclipse Day, forestry officials had to close Garden of the Gods, Bell Smith Springs and Jackson Falls when traffic congestion made travel nearly impossible.

Though the parking lot and interior of the SNF headquarters was crowded the morning of the eclipse, Forest Service workers rapidly assisted the seemingly endless numbers of eclipse-seekers.

On an open field owned by the city of Harrisburg, a few people were set up to watch the eclipse Monday morning. Mayor John McPeek said the city welcomed viewers to go to the 10-acre field on the north end of Harrisburg.

Kevin Wier, a resident of Midland, Mich, jumped at the chance.

"I heard about this spot on Facebook," said Wier, who had a small shade tent pitched to fend off the sun. "I knew a lot of people were going to the Shawnee National Forest, and I thought this would be less crowded."

Rob and Angie Lych of Park Forest had lawn chairs and a cooler.

"We wanted a place that was not as busy, that had a lot less people," Angie Lych said.

Nearby, amateur astronomer Fred Boland, together with Karen Johnson, had a tripod ready.

Boland, of Oak Park, said the event was the culmination of his interest in astronomy.

"I've been interested in astronomy since I was a kid," he said. "I use a scope to see the Chicago night sky, and with a CCD camera you can view nebulas," he said. "But this is the biggest event. It doesn't get bigger. Viewing this totality was a once in a lifetime chance."

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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:May 19, 2018
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