The magical moment has come and gone in Sweetwater, and it's one that the thousands of people who gathered in the small East Tennessee town will never forget.
FULL COVERAGE: Total Solar Eclipse
Sweetwater saw two minutes and 37 seconds of totality at 2:32 p.m. The crowd grew hushed as the light dimmed and the air cooled as the moon finally passed between the earth and the sun. As the seconds ticked down, some counted down to zero as darkness settled over the downtown streets.
The crowd was told it was safe to take off their eclipse glasses during totality, and that's when the exclamations of disbelief and amazement really started. The halo around the moon was beautiful, and it felt very special to be able to see it. The crowd broke out into spontaneous applause during the total eclipse.
Sweetwater was one of the prime locations across the country to see the eclipse, and the weather was perfect.
City leaders had heard from people from at least 34 states and six countries who said they were coming, swelling the population of the small East Tennessee town of 6,500 is expected to swell to more than 50,000 people.
As the partial eclipse began just after 1 p.m., the crowd applauded as everyone put on their eclipse glasses and looked up to get their first glimpse as the moon started slicing a corner out of the sun. It just got better from there. As totality approached, the vendors and activities were "blacked out" to allow everyone the time to enjoy the rare event.
The streets of downtown were full of people, visiting food and craft vendors that line the sidewalks and going in and out of downtown businesses. You could buy solar eclipse magnets, bumper stickers, tee-shirts, and more--- all commemorating the biggest day the city of Sweetwater has ever seen!
Many people were in downtown bright and early to capture their spot to watch the eclipse, claiming their spot with camp chairs and umbrellas. The lucky ones found a place in the shade!
Parking and places to stay were scarce, so people are offering their yards and fields for people to camp or park. Signs line the streets from the interstate, directing visitors where they can find a place to stop.
Walking the streets off downtown, you could hear different languages and accents, and see the occasional alien walking around. It's a hot day, but people are smiling and enjoying the festival atmosphere.
WBIR hosted an eclipse special from downtown Sweetwater from noon until 3 p.m., with live reports from Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cove in West Knox County, and more!