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Texas has front-row seats to the world’s next total solar eclipse

A woman wearing a cap uses binoculars to look at the sky.
Patricia Lim
/
KUT News
Crowds gather to celebrate the total solar eclipse at the Long Center in Austin on Monday.

Lee esta historia en español

Every 18 months, the Earth experiences a total solar eclipse, which is when the sky goes completely dark because the moon passes between the sun and the Earth. The phenomenon is known to have such an awe-inspiring effect that there are people – known as eclipse chasers – who travel all over the world to see them.

You won’t have to travel far to see one on April 8, 2024, because some of the best seats in the country will be in Texas. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see one here, because a total solar eclipse can only be seen from the same place, on average, once every 375 years.

To celebrate this experience, the Texas Eclipse Festival is coming to Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet April 5-9, offering camping, music, art, performances, workshops and more.

To learn more about the significance of this event and the inspiration behind the festival, we spoke with its co-founder, Mitch Morales, who is also the founder of Probably Nothing, a company that builds experiential activations at events. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: First of all, tell us what inspired you to create this festival, and when did you start putting it together? 

Mitch Morales: I think I first learned about the eclipse passing through Texas in 2017. There was an event in Oregon that really inspired me. I had been producing events and even some festivals outside of Austin for most of that decade and was kind of looking for another opportunity to create an interesting experience and kind of just got lucky. My question was, would I be able to see one in Texas in my lifetime? And it happened to be the next one that passed through the U.S.

Tell us about what you envision for this event.

With the global audience, we really wanted to create an opportunity for people to come in, settle on site, find their place, explore the venue and really be relaxed and ready for that event. It’s actually happening on a Monday around 1:30 in the afternoon, so we’re welcoming people in to begin camping on that Friday before.

There will be programming, music, art and a lot of different activations and installations throughout the weekend. And then, yeah, excited to celebrate a total solar eclipse. It’s really a long one: over four minutes and 20 seconds is on average on the higher end of totality time.

I was trying to imagine sort of trying to build a Woodstock vibe prior to the actual eclipse event and then partying on for a little longer. Is that what you imagine? 

If we could capture a cultural phenomenon like Woodstock, I think we’d be very happy. We’re trying to bring in a lot of different elements: a transformative festival culture and a lot of interesting, kind of more modern elements with a heavy focus on space and technology.

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Water sports is one of the activities at Reveille Peak Ranch. Given the heat this summer, I know lots of folks might be concerned about camping outside next spring. Will people have access to swim in the quarry on the ranch, or how are they going to deal with cooling off?

Yeah, we got lucky with the April timeline, one of the best times to have an outdoor event in Texas. Very likely that we’ll see clear skies, low chance of rain, which is obviously paramount for the eclipse viewing.

It’s a 1,300-plus acre ranch, multiple water features on it, very dynamic topography. You’ll be able to experience I think a 200-to-300 foot elevation change depending on where you are. And so yeah, water, very dynamic hiking trails and a lot of other outdoor activities that you can experience there.

The event pages online say that it’s going to feature a bit of Texas culture. Anything more specific you can share? 

Well, one thing I’m excited about is we’re looking to offer horseback rides. You can either just take a general ride, maybe head on up to one of the little mountains on site: Reveille Peak or Decision Point. And yeah, just trying to build in a little bit of Texas flare.

I grew up a short distance away, and so it’s really important to me to incorporate some of that classic Texas history and culture. It’s not directly in Austin, but we want to have some of the best of Austin food and music there on site as well.

A map of the total solar eclipse's path.
NASA Science Visualization Studio
A map of the total solar eclipse's path.

Austin – and well, Texas at large – has become sort of a magnet for a lot of these festivals – a lot of folks coming to Texas and starting up something special. It seems like, though, what is happening with this Texas Eclipse Festival is you’re actually collaborating with organizers from, as I understand it, all across the world, different parts of the world. Do I have that right?

Certainly. I believe the list is up to 13 groups that produce interesting experiential events in their home countries – Australia, Japan, a few countries in Europe, South Africa, and some of Central America – all bringing together to kind of give us a flavor of something special that they do in their home country, at their home event, and just increase that magic on site.

I was trying to find out a little bit more about this Oregon Eclipse Festival that you mentioned, and apparently it had some pretty innovative features. One of them was this First Nations camp, which was free of drugs and alcohol. It had rituals, ceremony, prayer in collaboration with Native people from that area. Are you planning anything similar? How big could this get? 

That type of programming is definitely something that’s in line with our ethos. We’re working with a few different producers from Central America: Ometeotl from Mexico, for one, and they typically have a heavy Native American elder programming activation where we can pay homage to the land and the people that came here before us.

I think it’s a very spiritual event for a lot of people and especially a lot of cultures from around the world. And we definitely want to be respectful of that. And the ranch itself has been an active cattle ranch since the 1800s and then was inhabited by people for hundreds of years before that, so it’s a really exciting opportunity to kind of blend that history with kind of the city of the future in Austin.

What is it about eclipses that seems to inspire people as much as they do? I mean, obviously the fact that an eclipse could be the focal point for lots of folks: for creative folks, for people who have a real passion for music and the arts, for people who are very much in tune with their own spirituality, that sort of thing. You find a real sort of convergence of communities around an eclipse.

I mean, aside from just the awe-inspiring visual experience, I think what we’re really seeing now is that with how fragmented our society has gotten, everybody on their technology devices for most of the day, there’s very few things that will bring us all together and have us all, you know, our attention drawn to one particular thing.

And while we don’t necessarily want to shy away from that technology, we want to celebrate it, we also want to just be reverent of that opportunity to, as you said, really bring a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to this area and bring a bunch of people from all over the world to collaborate and build it in a really interesting way.

When the eclipse itself happens on that Monday, are you planning any particularly special event, or will it be all quiet on the Texas front as everyone observes? How do you imagine that? 

I think one of the most exciting things to hear is people start to howl at the moon. I think there is this awe and this quiet that falls, but as we go into that totality event, people really start to celebrate and kind of lose it in the moment. So I’m really excited to see that happening at Reveille Peak Ranch in April.

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Amanda Kari McHugh is an intern with the Texas Standard.