Hundreds of people showed up at the Trails End Landmark Monday to observe a total solar eclipse, and they weren't disappointed.

Randy Kirby
Randy Kirby

Billed as a "Total Eclipse of the Trail," the event, held on the Missouri State Fairgrounds, featured a horseback ride by about 40 riders on the Katy Trail. The ride, sponsored by Von Holten Ranch, cost $20.17 to participate.

Free tours of the Trails End monument were offered throughout the event, which coincided with the long-awaited solar eclipse, which began around 11:40 a.m. and ended just before 2:40 p.m.

In addition to the tours, there were activities such as a cow chip toss championship (using real cow "chips"), horseshoe pitching and Cow Patty Bingo (with a live longhorn provided by Bill and Michelle Smith of Marshall Junction), as well as live music provided by One Track Train, a local band.

There was also food and drink available for purchase, and various booths were set up in the northeast corner of the fairgrounds at 16th and Limit, which saw a steady stream of motorists headed north to view the eclipse. After the eclipse was over, the stream reversed to a southbound flow for several hours through town.

At 12:30, there was a dedication ceremony for a recently-completed Trails End Educational Kiosk. Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler and State Rep. Sandy Crawford were among the special guests at the ceremony.

Totality was achieved at 1:11 p.m., and it lasted a mere one minute, 29 seconds. Clouds originally threatened the visibility, but by the time totality arrived, when the Moon slid in front of the Sun, everyone at the event was able to view the spectacular sight, one that has not been visible in Missouri for nearly 150 years.

"It was a partnership to experience one of life’s greatest natural phenomenons," commented Dr. Doug Kiburz, chairman of the Lands End subcommittee that helped organize the event. "One attendee counted 12 different state license plates in the parking lots," he noted.

MFA was a sponsor, along with Mark Hammond and Moonlight 21 photography.

"We used Mark's photos as “eclipsed” by Madge Gressley and Art and Graphics for use on the Trails End Eclipse Bandana which was sponsored by the Sedalia Laser Pain Center," Dr. Kiburz explained.

"There is nothing like partnering in projects which is how the kiosk dedication and eclipse party came about.  We learned of the “educational kiosk” grant that the DNR had available and with the help of Ed and Janet Watkins we were able to submit a successful application. As part of the application process we received “extra credit” for partnering with local groups.  By calling the regional BSA office we were given the OK to include scouts on the grant a in Trails End projects.  After the grant was awarded it seemed a grand enough project to also quality as an Eagle Scout project and when that information was sent out to the scouts, Will Hooten of Troop 66 got right back with me to join the team with Trails End and the Missouri State Fair Foundation, which Trails End is now a part of.

"Rob Rollings drew the plans and Jack Robinson and I met monthly for year in the planning process as we also checked in with Mark Wolfe at the Missouri State Fair regarding location and a timetable. It took a year to pass the environmental regulations to build at the location but when the final "go-ahead”  was given we were ready.  The Hooten family  are members of the Cowlitz Indian tribe and it made sense to include elements of Tribal Nations on our kiosk as we intended to provide practical travel information as well as historical material about Pettis County, and these United States.  Area and regional history can also be found on the free Guide by Cell Trails End Audio Tour (660-202-1156)  Hall of Fame entertainer Leroy Van Dyke will answer the phone and give listeners an overview of the Starline Brass Trails End Plaza and there are 18 more  stops to listen to  about Sedalia, the Old West, the Western Expansion and local interests," Kiburz said.

"In preparation for the “volunteer corps of engineers” to start building the kiosk,  W and M welding prepared the 6 by 6 18 foot posts that would form the base to construct the kiosk.  Bob Schwickrath, Gerald Wolf,  Doug Kiburz and two Sedalia Bombers, Kenny Piper and Jordan Wright manhandled the posts into the B and P post holes and set them in cement with time to set before the build day.   Will’s father, Nate, was overseas which dictated the timing for gathering volunteers and beginning the prime construction.  The day that fit the most schedules was the single hottest day of the summer-where blood and sweat but no  tears were shed-perhaps a few colorful words along the way.   We had announced that the dedication was to be at the time of the eclipse which was advantageous in that it kept the crew and volunteers on task to finish on time-which was accomplished two days before the Great American Eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017.  During this time Jack Robinson (who I have given the Indian name of Big Map Jack) was coordinating the educational maps.

"As the Katy Trail will be part of the American Discovery Trail as it reaches Kansas City via the Rock Island line we think traffic will be increasing to the Katy Trail and the Trails End Trailhead and our kiosk.  One map is a unique copy of an original hand drawn map of  Pettis County including important details of local history including native Indian tribes. There are up to the minute maps of all Missouri State Parks, the Missouri State Fairgrounds, the City of Sedalia, the primary Rail to Trail routes ( MKT and Rock Island) and all native Indian Tribal lands in the original names as well as a tribute panel thanking the many individuals and organizations that helped put this addition together," Kiburz explained.

Abraham Lincoln signed the Railroad Act and the Homestead Act in 1862 in an effort to link the east and the wild west and to help settle  the western expansion.  Adventurers, settlers and explorers came west to find a better life for themselves and future generations,  many traveling by rail.  Lincoln said that the construction of the railroad was the greatest physical feat of the 19th century.  And now, the MKT (as the Katy Trail State Park) the railroad that opened the Southwest, is once again a path for modern day explorers to find adventure in the heartland of America.  Along with the historical information the kiosk will provide practical information to travelers concerning the fairgrounds and Sedalia and the State of Missouri.   In addition, a charging station will be added for those cross country and cross state travelers who need to charge up communication devices.

The eclipse event grew out of the hopeful  magnitude of the experience and wanting to make the eclipse a day to remember.  To that end, the dedication was set for Aug. 21 and pieces started falling into place to include an Eclipse Trail Ride sponsored by Von Holten ranch, a family bike ride sponsored by Provelo, the Missouri State Cow Chip Throwing Championship,  Cow Patty Bingo, live music by One Track Train, vendors from the Missouri State Fair including Budweiser, Olde Time photos, Ozark Mountan Coffee,  Central Bank sponsorship,  CFM Insurance,  “on the plaza” tours of the Starline Brass Plaza and appearances from Congresswoman Vicki Hartzler and our new State Senator Sandy Crawford.

The eclipse wont be back next year but the Missouri State Cow Chip Throwing Championships will be as an enthusiastic group of division winners will be ready to defend their titles.

Eclipse glasses were provided by Bothwell Regional Health Center. The Missouri Horse Shoe Pitching Association gave demonstrations on the fun and technique of “pitching.”

Table of 5 catered pizzas and Budweiser provided beer. Co-sponsoring the event was the Missouri State Fair Foundation and the Sedalia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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