Makanda, a town of 500, prepares for eclipse mania

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Dave Dardis’ Rainmaker Studio Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, where he makes eclipse merchandise. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

By Athena Chrysanthou

Approximately 500 people live in the sleepy town of Makanda, but thousands will soon journey there for the biggest event southern Illinois has seen in years.

A total solar eclipse has not passed from one American coast to the other in 99 years, and this time, Makanda will be one of the prime locations in the country to view it.   

When 1:21 p.m. arrives on Monday, Dave Dardis, owner of Makanda’s Rainmakers Studio, said he believes skygazers will want to stand in one place: on the neon orange line running through his shop to the pavement.

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“The shadow is 73 miles wide,” Dardis said. “This is the mark we are right in the middle.”

Dardis has lived in Makanda for 45 years and has become the town’s most prominent artist since his arrival in the early 1970’s.

Inside the studio, jewelry, pendants, sculptures and other artworks can be found both inside the studio and in the “Rainmaker’s Garden” at the back of the shop.

For months, Dardis has been hand-making eclipse-themed pendants and sculptures, which have been in high demand and have attracted attention from all over the U.S.

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Dave Dardis’ Rainmaker studio Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017 in Makanda, where he makes eclipse merchandise. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

Pointing to one of the metal sculptures perched by the door ready to be shipped, Dardis said, “This one right here was seen on TV and a woman from New Mexico called me and said, ‘I want that one.’”

Dardis said he may spend an entire day creating a sculpture, making each piece so no two finished works are the same.

His increase in sales across the United States has prompted Dardis to think about raising his prices.

“I’m not going to be able to keep up with what I think is going to happen,” Dardis said.  

He said certain sculptures have been featured on CBS News and have attracted the attention of other news outlets, bringing a great deal of attention to his small town.  

One of Dave Dardis’ eclipse metal sculptures hangs on the wall Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, in his studio in Makanda. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

The opposite side of the boardwalk is home to the Eclipse Kitchen, which will celebrate its one-year birthday on the day of the eclipse.

Jacqueline Baker of Carbondale, the co-owner of the restaurant, said they sell eclipse merchandise such as glasses, atlases, maps, posters, t-shirts and more.   

She said she heard there might be between 5,000 to 20,000 people flocking to Makanda for the weekend, and already the town has begun to see a greater flow of people in the area.

“I didn’t realize we would be as popular as we have been,” she said. “We didn’t expect much at all when we opened our restaurant.”

The Makanda boardwalk Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

As the eclipse reaches totality at 1:21 p.m. Monday, the skies will darken for two minutes and forty-eight seconds.  Many will choose Makanda to view the phenomenon, and they will likely be doing the same seven years from now in 2024 when the small village will once again be at the center of a total solar eclipse.

Since the Eclipse Kitchen is one of the few places to grab a bite in Makanda over eclipse weekend, Baker said she believes the kitchen might run out of food.

 “We don’t have much room to store things, so we have this strange feeling we might sell out of our food Saturday and Sunday,” Baker said. “We may just have to enjoy the eclipse for ourselves.”

Editor-in-chief Athena Chrysanthou can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at@Chrysant1Athena

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