Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Solar Eclipse Expo in West County Will Help Experts and Educators Shine [Corrected 06/22/17]

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Solar Eclipse Expo in West County Will Help Experts and Educators Shine [Corrected 06/22/17]

Article excerpt

Correction published on Tuesday, June 13, 2017 * Only 700 tickets were made available for Friday night forum for the St. Louis Solar Eclipse Expo because of limited space, and more than 5,000 tickets were available for the Saturday expo. An information box in a story in Monday's paper about the number of tickets available for each event was incorrect.

What does it take to get 75 exhibitors of all kinds in one room?

Not too much. Just up to two minutes and 40 seconds of the moon blocking the sun.

The St. Louis Solar Eclipse Expo this Friday and Saturday at Queeny Park will bring an eclectic mix of people and groups together astronomers, Girl Scouts, teachers, wild bird lovers, NASA representatives, magicians, mapmakers, meteorologists, amateur radio operators, T-shirt vendors, eye doctors and librarians.

They all have their eye on wait, let them first put on their protective glasses the solar eclipse on Aug. 21.

"We've got so much excitement out there, and we want to show off a little bit," said Don Ficken, head of the St. Louis Eclipse Task Force. The group has met for two years in anticipation of the event, and now has about 300 members, made up of educators, astronomers, city leaders, business people, and others. The event is free if you preregister, or $3 at the door.

The expo is another chance to get the word out about the eclipse. If Ficken makes a presentation now, he says, maybe two out of 10 people in his audience will say they've heard of the eclipse. The expo will also teach people how to view an eclipse safely and give vendors a chance to show what they have to offer, he says.

And there's a reason to get excited: The last total solar eclipse in St. Louis was in the year 1442 around the time Cahokia mounds were abandoned.

Friday night will feature a speaker's panel of eclipse experts, including Mitzi Adams, a solar scientist for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center; David Baron, a journalist who has witnessed five total solar eclipses and just wrote a book, "American Eclipse"; meteorologists and astronomy professors.

Saturday's event will include vendors and several presentations and workshops, including instructions on how to make an eclipse viewer, how to measure light levels, and demonstrations with a mobile planetarium.

Gery Kotthoff, Ficken's good friend and neighbor in west St. Louis County, also owns a small advertising and marketing firm called Clarion Marketing. He'll be at the expo, and has been helping Ficken and the towns within the eclipse's path with marketing advice. "Very few entities have any budget," he said. He's also reached out to corporations to tell them the eclipse is a branding opportunity, whether it's putting a corporate logo on viewing glasses or having them sponsor a booth at a festival. "It's a nationwide opportunity," he said. …

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