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Dawson residents experience once-in-a-lifetime eclipse
County sees up to 98 percent totality
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Dawson County students, wearing special eclipse-viewing glasses, watch the Aug. 21 eclipse at a pool party. - photo by Allie Dean
The weeks leading up to the Great American Eclipse on Monday were full of excitement and anticipation in the north Georgia mountains as Dawson County residents braced for an onslaught of traffic heading northeast and collected last-minute pairs of special eclipse-viewing glasses.

As it turns out, everyone’s careful preparation meant a smooth day for viewing the rare occasion when the moon slips between the sun and the earth, blocking out the sun’s rays for a brief moment.

Sheriff Jeff Johnson reported minimal traffic disruptions on Ga. 400 and Hwy. 53 on Monday as 53,000 were expected on Georgia roads, making their way up to Rabun County, which was in the path that would see 100 percent of the eclipse.

And the frantic search for special viewing glasses and hurried creation of pinhole projectors dissipated as thousands of people across the county, not to mention millions across the country, held their viewers to their eyes and saw the magic of the first solar eclipse that had gone coast to coast in almost 100 years.

“It was an awesome experience,” said Dawsonville resident Amanda Sammons. “My kids were so amazed to watch it go from daylight to dark over an hour! Although we had the solar glasses, mine enjoyed making the pinhole projector and being able to see the eclipse happening with a cereal box and aluminum foil.”

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With backs to the sun, eclipse-viewing pool party attendees in Dawsonville watched the solar eclipse through homemade pinhole projectors. - photo by Allie Dean

For some however, the greatest eclipse the country had seen in nearly a century was a little...anticlimactic.

“That’s it?” yelled Bailey Swafford, 10, as he watched the light go dim around him and, through eclipse-viewing glasses, saw a sliver of the sun grow smaller and then larger again.

Other kids at the Dawsonville pool party he attended had similar reactions, but some older kids and adults were in awe of what they had seen, appreciating the rare outer-space alignment.

At around 2:36 p.m., the air turned still around them and in the midst of the hot, bright day the world suddenly looked as though it was being viewed through a big pair of sunglasses or a filter on a smartphone.

Some watched their shadows grow comically small on the concrete. Others listened for crickets, or looked to see if the trees cast small crescent shadows on the ground. Some just stared at the sun through their special eyewear, unable to look away from the history-making eclipse.

“How could anyone look at that and not think that God exists?” said Avery Young, 15.

The eclipse-viewing pool party was just one way that people in Dawson County celebrated the landmark Aug. 21 event.

Seniors at the Margie Weaver Senior Center had an ice cream party and watched the eclipse from the parking lot at Veterans Memorial Park.

“We had a wonderful time watching the eclipse,” said Senior Center Director Dawn Pruett. “We had over 60 seniors and staff watching the eclipse while enjoying an ice cream party. Amazing watching 90-year-old seniors view the eclipse!

Half a dozen families parked their cars at the front of the north Georgia Premium Outlets to enjoy the unobstructed view over Ga. 400.

Among them was Julie Ossmann, 47, who had driven up from Roswell. Ossmann said she had seen the last total solar eclipse over the U.S. and that she was excited to see another.

“I was in Ohio in 79’ during the eclipse,” Ossmann said. “We had no fancy glasses, it was all makeshift stuff. I don’t remember much about it though.”

Others stayed at home, often turning the event into an educational experience for their kids, who were released early from Dawson County Schools. Superintendent Damon Gibbs also said that 20 percent of the school population was absent on Monday.

Michelle Leid said it was an awesome opportunity to talk to her daughter about the science behind an eclipse.

“I had her demonstrate to me what was actually happening between the sun, Earth and moon, talked about what primitive people must have thought was going on and how terrifying it might have been [and] how we are thankful for the advancement of science to explain these things,” Leid said. “[We] talked about the crickets we could hear that were obviously confused, watched the street lights come on and go back off.”

U.S. residents are reminded to save their eclipse glasses: the next total solar eclipse is expected on April 8, 2024, and will be on a track northeast from Texas to Maine, according to Georgia isn’t in the path of totality for the 2024 eclipse.

The next coast-to-coast eclipse isn’t due until 2045.

One thing is for sure, the 2017 eclipse and all its mania has passed in totality.

“[I’m] happy it's done, can we get on with life now?” asked Dawson resident Leslie Lubke.