Spectators flock to the Mill for eclipse

Sinclaire Sparkman • Aug 21, 2017 at 9:27 PM

The Mill welcomed a diverse group of viewers Monday, with people from as far away as France and Australia coming to see the total solar eclipse. 

The event was free to enter and provided a free lunch as well as free solar eclipse glasses. Healthy Fashions offered eclipse t-shirts specially designed for the Mill’s event, and Harpers Books offered eclipse books. 


Hundreds of people attended the event, both locals and out of towners. 

“The hunt for coming here was part of the fun,” said Jack Grobe from New York who drove for two days to get to Tennessee with Trisha Ferrel. “We like the Mill because of the whole ambiance of the parking area here with the trees and the grass, it’s great.” 

Frank and Jean Navratil drove down from Ohio to come to the Mill. They said their son attended Cumberland University, and they used to visit Lebanon all the time. The trip that usually takes them about four hours took six and a half hours Monday due to increased traffic from the eclipse. 

View a full gallery of pictures from Solar Eclipse at The Mill. 

“It was worth the hassle,” Frank Navaratil said. “I called down to the Mill to see how much it would cost and if they had any glasses. Laura [Comer] has just been, you know, the typical Tennessee friendliness. She is just wonderful. We’re so glad to be here.” 

Jean Navratil saw the last solar eclipse in Iowa using the pinprick method. She said they didn’t have glasses back in those days. 

“Being able to look at it and actually see it work is great,” Jean Navratil said. 

Lee Mehan, an amateur astronomer from Houston, Texas, brought a 60-millimeter solar telescope, which gave a stunning up-close view of the event. 

“It seemed like the traffic would be a lot easier than Gallatin,” Mehan said. “We got online and found the Mill here. I spoke to Laura Comer, and everything has been very hospitable. We’re close to the centerline here, two minutes and 35 seconds [of totality]. Now we just have to keep those clouds away.” 

The clouds did stay away for the most part. Even though a few clouds briefly blocked the sun during the partial phase before totality, the sky was clear during the two minutes and 35 seconds – just two seconds off the most time the eclipse was visible anywhere – when the moon completely covered the sun. 

After the eclipse, Bo Cung, who flew into Nashville from Texas, said he would view the next eclipse near where he lives now in Dallas. 

“It was unbelievable. I didn’t expect that,” Cung said. 

Many people were mostly at a loss for words after the total solar eclipse, with words like “awesome,” “wonderful” and “amazing” among all that could be mustered for a description. 

“You can’t even explain it to anyone who didn’t experience it,” Ferrel said. 

The Mill held a free event with the help Crossroads Church, Intrigue Athletics and the small businesses located there. The church, which congregates at the Mill, provided a free lunch of beef hot dogs, chips and drinks, as well as other goodies like insulated can holders, free eclipse glasses and miniature fans that plug into a cellphone. Intrigue Athletics provided the Moon Pies, and Mill businesses helped out with extra goodies like eclipse t-shirts and eclipse books. 

“All our merchants chipped in to have a great time with water, more Moon Pies and the glasses,” said Laura Comer, event and sales manager at the Mill. “We’ve just been inundated with people, much more than we thought, but we’ve been ready.”

Comer said many of the people that came from out of town found the Mill on Google Earth and liked the location and the size of the parking lot.  

“This building was actually here during the last total solar eclipse in Lebanon,” said Angela Mueller, owner of Healthy Fashions at the Mill. “So as far as historic events, that makes it even sweeter.” 

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