May 30, 1984: When an eclipse made metro Atlanta a little - crazy

Anyone who was here at that time and old enough to remember will never forget the "party city" Atlanta became that day.

ATLANTA -- Just how big will the solar eclipse be in north Georgia?? 11Alive asked the folks in Rabun County who are expecting a huge crowd on Aug. 21. 

The county's executive director of tourism said NASA estimates 53,000 cars will be heading to the northeast corner of Georgia for the eclipse. Hotels and bed-and-breakfasts throughout the area are already booked. In fact, some eclipse watch events around Rabun County are already selling out.

The eclipse is a rare phenomenon and there's been nothing like it around here--in 33 years, to be exact.  Anyone who was in metro Atlanta and north Georgia at that time, who is old enough to remember, will never forget the "party city" Atlanta became that day.

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"We've never played an eclipse, before," a punk rocker said with a smile that day, as he and his group performed for one of the outdoor eclipse parties.

It was the day when Atlanta, and much of north Georgia, kind of went crazy.

Right in the middle of the day, in the middle of the work-week, Atlantans came outside to be together--to experience, together, this near total-eclipse of the sun.

It was Wednesday, May 30, 1984.

For most of three hours, straddling the Noon hour, office workers and shoppers filled Central City Park (now called Woodruff Park) in downtown, soaking-in the celestial, lunar and solar vibes.

In midtown Atlanta, thousands converged on the highest hilltop in Piedmont Park to watch.

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"Part of being on the planet Earth is participating, and how could you not participate in something like this?  I mean, wow!" said one woman at the park.

This solar eclipse zoomed across the Southern U.S., right over Atlanta--the moon blocking 99.7 percent of the sun.

It was already a cooler-than-normal day. The temperature at noon was only in the high 50s, dropping quickly as as noonday turned to near midnight--a cloudless, crisp day.

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You could see the crescent of the sun, waning and then waxing in the pattern of shadows cast by the leaves on the trees onto the ground.

Adults shared Moon Pies, moonshine and champagne with each other--strangers, now fast friends.

Entrepreneurs sold t-shirts, at $7 each.

Kindergartners at the park, who are now pushing 40 years old, weren't quite sure what was going on.

"It's getting dark," one child said. "Don't get scared, don't get scared about the darkness," the teacher responded.

The lights in downtown skyscrapers flicked on as birds and animals, confused, settled in as if ready to go to sleep.

"It's really indescribable until you've at least have been there once," a man at the park said.

"I thought it was going to be a tornado," a child said of the darkening skies.

Astronomers will tell you that some points on the earth may go without a solar eclipse for two or three centuries.  On that day in 1984, for the thousands of people across Atlanta who soaked in the rare experience, the centuries and the heavens converged--for them.

"Thought it was wonderful and I'm really glad I got to see it in my lifetime," one young woman said right after the eclipse.  "We'll see another one," a friend said to her.  The woman smiled.  "We will?  Wonderful!  I can't wait!  Hopefully I'll be alive, then." And she laughed.

She had to wait only 33 years to see Atlanta go eclipse-crazy again.

© 2017 WXIA-TV


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