Crowds gather for solar eclipse in Athens, Tenn.

Crowds gather for solar eclipse in Athens, Tenn.

August 21st, 2017 by Paul Leach in Breaking News

Crowds gather at Athens Regional Park.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

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ATHENS, Tenn. — They have come from all over to watch the sky go out when the eclipse casts its shadow over Athens Regional Park today.

By 11 a.m., park officials had logged visitors from dozens of states, plus Canada, Costa Rica and half a dozen European nations. 

David Landy and Jess Martin made a 10-hour drive from Richmond, Va., this morning to find a spot for their families to wait for the eclipse.

"The main reason [we picked Athens] was that it looked like the best spot to see it," Landy said. "It didn't require a trip out to Nebraska."

People flock to Athens, Tenn., for the total solar eclipse.

People flock to Athens, Tenn., for the total...

Photo by Paul Leach /Times Free Press.

Landy, described as a "science geek" by his family, spent the weekend looking for the best weather locations to view the eclipse. Nashville and Asheville, N.C. were also in the running, he said. 

"I think it's going to be cool," middle schooler Cecily Martin said, not long before her family constructed a cardboard eclipse viewer on a tripod.

Visitors find shade wherever they can, with groups sitting under trees or relaxing under umbrellas, tents and pavilions. Others line up at food trucks offering cool drinks and ice cream. In the background, live but soft country bluegrass music wafted throughout the park.

The park can easily handle 6,500 people during its packed July 4 fireworks show, according to officials. It is unclear how many people have come to the park today. 

Away from the crowds, toward the hilly south side of the park, Jason Lueck and his young sons — who come from Montgomery, Ala. — threw a football between spells in the shade. 

"My boys and I all enjoy space stuff," Lueck said. "We decided to head on out to Athens because I did not want to get in Nashville traffic."

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