Total Eclipse Watch Party

The planning for our Total Eclipse Watch Party began over a year ago. Actually the hope was first there after seeing the total eclipse during a trip to Kentucky in 2017. Could we possibly host such an event and be lucky enough to be in the path of totality for 2024? I procrastinated looking at the upcoming map for YEARS in fear the shadow would miss us but when I finally confirmed the next total US eclipse is OURS – I knew we would have to do something special!

We started the 1-year countdown with a Facebook post saying “SAVE THIS DATE NEXT YEAR.” That day was also a chance to see exactly where the sun would be in the sky during the expected time. The position was optimal for viewing from our lawn area between the winery and the vineyard. The mid-afternoon timing was also favorable to allow guests to arrive and depart at comfortable hours. The only odd element was being on a Monday – but we knew from what we had seen before that people would make an effort and plan a trip determined to witness a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon.

Our celebration plans took the focus of a family-friendly event. The first vendor we booked was the Penny Lane VW Photo Bus! It’s a photo booth on wheels, specifically an adorable vintage VW bus decked out with all types of 60s vibe. Soon after, The Wine Trough signed on to provide their famous “Charconerie” which is an assortment of meat, cheese and other tasty tidbits all wrapped up in a bamboo cone. Of course, there would be a designated wine called “Totality” and a blue adult beverage named “Solar Eclipse.” With these anchors in place, we could fill the day with other eclipse-themed activities and games. (Here’s a link to the full catalog of photo bus pics taken that day.)

The Hamilton County Tourism organization promptly got busy promoting the virtues of the lodging and restaurants fully in the path of totality but still north of the congestion of Indianapolis. Our winery was third to join the list of venues in the county as hosting an eclipse event. The list quickly drew attention from many people living in the Chicago area.

By February this year, we had sold out our designated 100 tickets. We decided to NOT charge an admission fee but created a ticketed event using the Eventbrite web tool. This would manage the crowd size and more specifically the number of vehicles we can safely park on our property.

As the day approached, the real possibility of bad weather began to loom in our minds. We assumed in a rain-out situation that the crowd would just not come at all. But a cloudy sky could sustain uncertainty until the last minute. I regret that I did not use the ticket service to send a follow-up email to our expected guests but many of them reached out to us with last-minute questions. Most asked if they could arrive earlier than 1:00pm – we said yes – and that helped spread out the check-in process.

Rain had persisted the week prior but the morning of Eclipse Day, April 8th, we had a cloudless blue sky! Our crew of helpers erected 7 canopies across the lawn area, covered tables with blue plastic, arranged chairs and inflated blue and yellow balloons. Every helper then had a station to man for the day while they snuck peeks at the partial and increasing eclipse. There was a Science Zone, Galaxy Donut crafting, and Corn Hole to educate and entertain. The photo bus had parked the previous evening and its owners arrived early to set up all of their extra features including a bubble machine and radio-controlled car for their dog, aptly-named “Sunshine.”

The crowd entered smoothly, eager to purchase some beverages from the bar that still didn’t open until 1:00pm. From that moment on, the day sped by and was a blur to me although I had no alcohol myself! Only after photographs taken by many different people were collected, was I able to see what elements of the plan came together and some that did not.

All-in-all, the visitors were extremely courteous and seemed to be pleased with how things went. Clear skies prevailed though the afternoon with a few plane trails. Lots of picnics, a family reunion, and even a small wedding took place under the shadow of the moon. Several serious photographers came to document the phases of the eclipse. Visit the Instagram page of Sastry Karra to see shots we are proud to say were taken from our vineyard!

The experience of totality took many by surprise. Being such a unique sensation of so many dimensions, it is difficult to explain to someone else just how special it is. Experiencing it with others has a bonding, unifying effect. For those few minutes, we are cohabitants in a creation too awesome for words. What a privilege it was to welcome people from at least 9 other states who came to share this eclipse with us. Huge thanks are due to our vendors, helpers and guests who all worked together to make it a day we will ALWAYS remember!