Solar Fest West, a free Eclipse event at West Columbia’s Riverwalk Amphitheater

The Total Solar Eclipse is a big deal. And nowhere is that more apparent than at West Columbia City Hall.

“We’ve been planning for months for the big day,” said Kelli Ricard, West Columbia events manager. Anna Huffman, the city’s public information officer, said West Columbia is a wonderful place, and when the multitude of visitors descend upon the area, West Columbia wants to make them feel welcome, and show them all that the city has to offer.

To make a good impression, West Columbia is holding Solar Fest West to view the once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21. Admission to Solar Fest West is totally free.

Solar Fest West will be from noon –until- 4 p.m, at the Wyman M. “Mac” Rish Riverwalk and Amphitheater, 109 Alexander Road, West Columbia.

Solar Fest West will feature live music from “Seventy Six and Sunny” and “Prettier than Matt.”

Also at the eclipse viewing party will be: food trucks, a beer garden, Pelican SnoBalls, face painting, balloon art, cooling stations, a photo booth with a custom eclipse background, and free eclipse glasses. Ricard said the eclipse viewing glasses the city has ordered are NASA certified.

And a group from Bill’s Pickin’ Parlor will perform during the intermission by the other bands.

There will also be education stations to learn more about the eclipse.

Ricard said because of its historical significance, it’s important to have Lexington Two teachers on hand.

We want students to understand the magnitude of the eclipse,” Ricard said. And how rare the opportunity is to see it.. We are very thankful for the generous Lexington School District 2 teachers who volunteered their time to help educate the community on the uniqueness of the event.”

Casey Hallman, of West Columbia City Council, and an Instructional Facilitator for Lexington Two Schools said she is very pleased that teachers Wendy Spaihour from Wood Elementary and Samantha Rudolph of Fulmer Middle School have volunteered to work in the education stations.

Hallman also said the teachers will use modules to physically demonstrate exactly how the eclipse occurs.

And at 2:41 p.m. on the day of the eclipse, viewers in the West Columbia area will experience the longest total solar eclipse on the East Coast. It will result in two minutes and 36 seconds of darkness in the middle of the afternoon.

Estimates are up to one million visitors will come to witness the first total solar eclipse to make a path all the way across the continental U.S. in 99 years.

Visitors and residents in the area will enjoy a long weekend of eclipse-related activities.

Huffman said there are many area attractions that include, arts and culture, restaurants, hotels, retailers, community groups and more leading up to and during the eclipse.

“We want to let everyone know West Columbia offers many opportunities for all of the visitors,” Huffman said.

She said several diverse groups are coming together to make the Total Eclipse Weekend an unforgettable weekend-long experience .

Another event, affecting West Columbia, besides Solar Fest West is Southern Lights. It’s a long-term art installation by artist Chris Robinson, that will span the Congaree River near the Gervais Street Bridge.

“First Night Southern Lights,” is a free event celebrating the installation, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19, as part of the Total Solar Eclipse Weekend Celebrations.

Southern Lights was made possible with the support of the cities of Columbia, West Columbia and Cayce and Richland County, the installation’s design is meant to connect the cities and the Midlands community.

Prettier Than Matt

Prettier Than Matt consists of Jessica Skinner and Jeff Pitts. The duo have drawn large crowds to West Columbia’s Rhythm on the River concerts.

Prettier Than Matt is best described as diverse and versatile, combined with musical ability. The likable duo have made a name for themselves in the Carolinas with a mixture of rock ‘n’ roll energy and acoustic accessibility that allows them to play in many different places, events, and situations and still appeal to a wide audience. They’re Americana, pop, rock, and more on the newly released album Better Left Said, which features lead single “Anymore.’

Seventy Six and Sunny

Often compared to the likes of Sister Hazel, Matchbox Twenty and Hootie and the Blowfish, the band has built a large presence and following in Columbia. Seventy Six and Sunny has been nominated as one of the ‘Best Band in Columbia.’

PHOTO: Kelli Ricard, Anna Huffman model the NASA Certified Eclipse viewing glasses the City of West Columbia will distribute.

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