Local Grand Rapids group will travel to Arkansas for total solar eclipse

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A solar eclipse is set to move across the country on April 8. The path of totality will begin in southwest Texas and end in Maine. A group from West Michigan is gearing up to make the drive.

“It’s a wonderful, eclectic group of people that we’ve put together. Many of them were shadow chasers in 2017 when we all went out to the Nebraska prairie,” said DeBruyn. “I’ve had the good fortune of seeing six total solar eclipses out of seven tries, but I’ve had to go all over the world in order to do that.”

Totality: The April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse

Led by Curator Emeritus at the Grand Rapids Public Museum Planetarium, Dave DeBruyn, a group of 50 members are making the drive to Little Rock, Arkansas to view the spectacle. DeBruyn led a group to Nebraska back in 2017 for the total solar eclipse.

“There’s a wide variety of people. Some science-y kind of people, some physicists and math teachers and people like that. Then, just average people that, too, have an interest in this,” said Mike Falk.

Mike and Stacy Falk are long-time Rockford residents. Mike Falk has been an active member of the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association.

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“I’m not a super science-y person, but I love being outside and I love nature and just experiencing creation. When something as unusual as this happens, this is your chance. It’s either take it now or gamble that you’ll be able to go in 20 years. You got to grab opportunities while you have them,” said Stacy Falk.

Just short of 12 hours from Grand Rapids, Little Rock was chosen for optimistic weather prospects. The area typically sees more sunshine in early April compared to cities further north. It also provides optimal access to travel south to Texas or North to Illinois if the forecast changes.

Millions of people are expected to travel to the path of totality. Traffic jams and travel times will be significantly higher. Hotel prices are already on the rise with most accommodations completely sold out.

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“We have been told to pack a lot of patience,” said Stacy Falk. “But this is an event. There is going to be people from all over the country. It almost seems like a race or a game, to be in the right place at the right time, in the right weather situation so you can actually see it.”

For both Mike and Dave, this trip means a bit more than just viewing the total solar eclipse. The two have been friends for decades.

“When I was a kid, my grandparents took me to the public museum, and this would’ve been in the very early 80s. There was a guy there who was leading a summer camp for kids about astronomy and the leader of that was Dave DeBruyn. He goes back a long time! So part of this is almost full circle,” said Mike Falk.

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