An event is coming August 21 that is unlikely to repeat itself in our lifetime, and Southern Wesleyan University will offer one of the best spots on the planet to experience it.

On that day, North America will experience a total solar eclipse, but only those within a narrow path from Oregon to South Carolina will see the awe-inspiring sight. SWU’s Central, S.C. campus, is located along the center of the path of totality, which promises one of the longest eclipse viewing times in the nation — two minutes and 37 seconds.

Eclipse Over Pickens County, a free, public event at SWU’s Gilbert Track and Field Complex, is being hosted jointly by SWU, Central and Pickens County. Gates open at noon. Eclipse totality begins at 2:37 p.m.

Complimentary safety glasses for viewing the eclipse will be distributed to visitors on a first-come, first-served basis. A live feed on the track’s large video scoreboard will provide safe viewing of the eclipse by small children. Visitors are invited to bring lawn chairs or blankets. There will also be food vendors, live entertainment and children’s activities starting at noon.

Event attendees are encouraged to bring school supplies donations for United Way to give to children in need living in Pickens and Oconee counties.

Parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Premium parking is available for $10. For details on premium parking, call Tony Payne at (864) 644-5014.

The day’s activities will include a lecture and lunch at Bryant Lodge, presented by SWU’s Division of Science and featuring Professor Ivy Kaufman. Kaufman will speak about the science behind this rare natural event. Registration for this ticketed event can be found here.

Following the eclipse, Mike O’Neal, a 31-year NASA veteran, will present “Spirituality and Spaceflight,” a multimedia presentation on the role of spirituality in human space flight, including audio and video of astronauts from the Apollo program and the International Space Station. This presentation will begin at 3:15 p.m. in the auditorium of Newton Hobson Chapel and Fine Arts Center, 737 Wesleyan Drive, one block from the track.

Tickets for “Spirituality and Spaceflight” are $5 and will be available on the 21st in the Gilbert Track and Field vendor area. Proceeds go to Southern Wesleyan’s Childs Hall Project. For group ticket reservations, contact Joy Bryant at (864) 644-5385. Seating is limited to 1,000.

O’Neal, retired from NASA, spent more than three decades working at Kennedy Space Center, and was awarded NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal as well as two Exceptional Service medals. Prior to his retirement, O’Neal completed a special assignment in which he investigated mechanisms to provide spiritual support for astronauts.

For details, ticket links and many eclipse-related resources, click here. Information for safely viewing the solar eclipse can be found here.

Gilbert Track and Field Complex is located at 215 Clayton Street in Central, on the SWU campus.