During the early morning hours on Monday, Aug. 21, volunteers from the Egyptian Board of REALTORS® (EBOR) will help visitors find comfortable viewing positions for the first total solar eclipse to hit southern Illinois in almost a century.
The location is Bald Knob Mountain, nearly 1,000 feet above sea level, just south of Carbondale, near the small town of Alto Pass. The mountain is known for a cross built at the top called the Bald Knob Cross of Peace. The area is the place where the eclipse will have the greatest duration and will be “the destination for many serious eclipse chasers,” according to the Cross of Peace website.
EBOR became involved with the project many months ago after EBOR CEO Charay Palmer attended an area economic development meeting. The organizers of the meeting explained that scientists, photographers and people interested in the rare phenomena would be flocking to areas like Carbondale to witness and document the eclipse. Thousands of people are expected to visit in the days leading up to the eclipse, Palmer said, and the area is hoping to get an economic boost from the activity. The non-profit organization that operates the Bald Knob Cross of Peace planned to raise money by renting defined viewing areas to visiting eclipse enthusiasts. But they sought partners to help defray some promotional costs.
The Egyptian Board of REALTORS® soon decided to pitch in, providing seed money for T-shirts and special sunglasses to be created. An affiliate member bought 1,500 bottles of water. An EBOR staff member surprised Palmer by taking a photography class so she could document the day with eclipse photos. Volunteers signed up to help direct car and foot traffic on the day of the eclipse.
“Bald Knob Mountain is the highest spot in the county,” said Palmer. “You can see parts of four states from there. Plus, it’s just a very pretty place.”
Among the side benefits for participating in the event, says Palmer, is the fact that EBOR was permitted to print its name on the promotional glasses and T-shirts. In addition to local news coverage by newspapers and radio stations, the Associated Press and three regional television stations will be on hand. Schools will be closed in three counties and local families are expected to take interest in the eclipse as a result.
Just a few miles away at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, representatives from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Adler Planetarium in Chicago and the Louisiana Space Corsortium will be part of a special program at Saluki Stadium. While some members of the community may have initially wondered about the significance of the eclipse, the mounting interest in the educational value of the upcoming event has certainly caught the attention of many.
“We got involved because it’s another way to show members of the community that we’re not just interested in buying and selling real estate,” said Palmer. “We care about what’s going on in our communities.”