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The celestial spectacle was considered by many to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience

INDEPENDENT PHOTO: JULIA COMNES - Campers at Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm marvel at the partial eclipse yesterday morning. The total solar eclipse began at 10:18 a.m.Day turned into night in Woodburn during what many called a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view a total solar eclipse.

Travelers came to the Woodburn area from both Portland and across the country to view the eclipse. The partial eclipse began at around 9:05 a.m. and totality started at 10:18 a.m., lasting 1 minute, 16 seconds.

Although Woodburn wasn't tagged as a major eclipse destination, it had its fair share of visitors. Parking spaces at the Woodburn Premium Outlets were going for $20 each as travelers pulled off of Interstate 5 to view the eclipse.

And more than 100 day trippers came to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, which hosted more than 1,000 overnight campers for the eclipse.

Although the Oregon Department of Transportation had been warning travelers and locals that the roads could become a nightmare in the days leading up to the eclipse, most travelers said the trip to Woodburn wasn't as bad as predicted.

"I think it was just overhype," said Sukari Budaei, a Portlander who traveled to Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm for the day with her family. "We were kind of comparing it to Y2K."

Sumithra and Kamal Vedantham, who live in California, left from Portland at 5:30 a.m. on Monday to make it to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm. "We thought it would take maybe four hours," said Kamal Vedantham. "We got here by 7:30 a.m."

Most travelers came to see the eclipse in its totality because of its rarity and its accessibility.

"We've so many times seen the lunar eclipse," said Kamal Vedantham. "We want to see the darkness. It's the lifetime achievement."

"It's like a once-in-a-lifetime thing, to hit Oregon first and be at 100 percent (totality)" said Gloria Mulberry, who traveled to the farm from Vancouver, Washington on Monday morning with her mother and her niece.

For many visitors, it was their first total solar eclipse. Some visitors, though, had seen one before. "If you've seen one, it's really enjoyable," said John Esterl. He traveled to Mexico to view a total eclipse in the 1990s. "This is a totally different vibe. I was in the middle of the Gulf of California in a dive boat for the last one I saw."

And for some, the eclipse had a sentimental value. Ellen Girardeau Kempler, who traveled from Southern California for the event, said she felt compelled to see the eclipse because of her father, who passed away a couple of years ago. "My dad was a theoretical physicist," she said. "I just thought, I have to come see this eclipse because one of my earliest memories is seeing the eclipse from a pinhole camera he made me."

Kempler said she was sad more people wouldn't be able to experience totality. "The Oregon media made such a big deal out of the traffic, but none of my friends from Oregon would come because they were worried about traffic," Kempler said. "I just think it's so sad. You live in Oregon; how could you not be here for this great event?"

As totality approached, the temperature dropped noticeably and the sky darkened. And when totality hit, the sky darkened to a twilight-like glow and stars appeared.

At the camping area of the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, eclipse-viewers gasped, shouted, clapped and hollered during totality.

When it was over, viewers were in awe of the experience. "I've seen plenty of pictures of total eclipse, and it just doesn't do it justice," said Tom DiMarco, who lives in Connecticut and was camping at Wooden Shoe. "I don't think any photo can capture what I just saw."

"The temperature dropped, it looked like it was sunset," said Katie Pratt, who traveled from Connecticut with DiMarco. "It looked holographic to me."

According to the National Weather Service Portland office, Salem experienced a temperature drop of four degrees during the eclipse. Salem's totality lasted longer than in Woodburn, clocking in at 1 minute, 54 seconds.

Although traffic was better than expected the days leading up to the eclipse, the roads became backed up almost immediately after it was over. On Monday afternoon, drivers on I-5 northbound between Salem and Portland experienced more than an hour delay, according to Google Maps. ODOT's TripCheck website showed stop-and-go traffic conditions on I-5 north from south Salem through Wilsonville.

Even so, many travelers said the event was well worth any extra effort. "The difference between staying home and getting 99 percent and getting totality, it was totally worth it," said Ian Harney, a camper from Portland.

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Julia Comnes can be reached at 503-765-1195 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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