By Toni W. Riley
Jennifer Brown has a very personal attachment to the eclipse. While working for the Kentucky New Era, she and then-KNE-photographer Danny Vowell “broke” the eclipse story 10 years ago.
Brown got a news alert about the eclipse that included the coordinates for the greatest point of totality. She and Vowell, who owned a GPS unit, were actually able go to the exact location, climbing over barbed wire fences into a pasture to stand in the spot.
Brown said she even talked to a “chaser” in Pennsylvania who told her “Hopkinsville has no idea what was going to happen to the community.”
Fast forward 10 years, and the eclipse is bringing people from all over the world to Hopkinsville, but it has also provided an opportunity to bring families from all over the world back home for reunions.
For Brown, the idea to invite family — actually 25 relatives — just evolved. The group will include not only immediate family but extended family from both her and husband John.
“The thought process started months ago,” she said. “It was so organic. This is Hopkinsville’s biggest ever homecoming.”
Brown laughed and added that she has been talking “this” up for months and no one had to have their arm twisted to come.
Her son, Chris, and his wife, Taylor, live in Texas, and both were able to get time off from their jobs as pilots. Other family coming from a long distance include an aunt and uncle from North Carolina and a cousin from Nebraska.
Brown pointed out that everyone she knows has people coming, which will really increase the number of people in the community — not from chasers with no connection to Hopkinsville but those who are connected to the town. She believes the family members coming in will have the most impact.
Brown is working to make the family reunion reflect Kentucky —especially Hopkinsville.
She is ordering pork barbecue “early” and freezing it, to be sure she can serve the local delicacy before it sells out. She is also cooking a country ham for traditional ham and biscuits. And another family favorite that will be on the table is Holiday Burgers’ pimento cheese.
Brown is particularly looking forward to making a huge pot of burgoo with Chris, which they will start on Saturday night.
“Chris started making burgoo when he moved to Texas,” she said, laughing. “I think he was a little homesick and he likes to cook.”
Beverages will include growlers of Hopkinsville Brewing Co. beer because she wants her family to taste the new local brew.
And a special part of the reunion is a four-hour music playlist that Brown has compiled with songs that include the words “sun,” “moon” and “stars.”
“I just love music,” she explained.
Brown has been making playlists for parties and important events for some time. However, she didn’t realize how many songs have sun, moon or stars in the title. Seventy songs are currently on the playlist.
Even with that large list to choose from, she expanded the list to include songs that were unique to Kentucky and evoke thoughts of the Bluegrass. Happily, she found there are some iconic Kentucky tunes with something in the title that supports this kind of event.
As she scrolled through her list looking for examples of particular favorites, she said the list is stored on Spotify as “Solar Eclipse Tunes for Hoptown and Beyond.” Anyone with a Spotify account can access it. Brown also put a link to it on her Facebook page.
Her favorite songs on the playlist include, of course, “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and also an Americana song entitled “Hopkinsville.” She noted that this relatively unknown song by Darrell Scott went pretty far up the Roots Music chart. Another that works well is “In a Town This Size” by John Prine.
She added that her own personal favorites were “Aquarius,” “House of the Rising Sun” and “Mr. Blue Sky.”
Being a grandmother, Brown added songs that daughter Renee’s five children ages 10 to three will enjoy. The playlist includes Jewell singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and Sesame Street’s Ernie belting out “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon.”
The family will start arriving on Saturday before the Monday eclipse, and she is really looking forward to taking them to the Summer Salute Festival and “seeing downtown Hopkinsville packed with people.”
Only the families of Renee and Chris are actually staying with her. Everyone else is actually viewing the eclipse from another locale and won’t be trying to get back to the Browns home.
Brown’s enthusiasm about having the opportunity to bring family together and showcase her hometown is clearly evident.
“I’m really excited about this,” she said. “I love to plan things like this with everyone coming to me.”
Oh, and for dessert, there will be Moon Pies — of course.
Eclipse Party Essentials
MUSIC – Jennifer Brown’s solar eclipse playlist
“Blue Moon of Kentucky,” by Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys
“Hopkinsville,” by Darrell Scott
“In a Town This Size,” by John Prine
“Aquarius,” by The 5th Dimension
“House of the Rising Sun,” by The Animals
“Mr. Blue Sky,” by Electric Light Orchestra
“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” by Jewel
Sesame Street’s “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon”
“Moondance,” by Van Morrison
“I Saw the Light,” by Hank Williams
“Lights,” by Ellie Goulding
“Feeling Good,” Nina Simone
Find this playlist on Spotify by searching “Solar Eclipse Tunes for Hoptown and Beyond.”
Create Solar Eclipse trivia.
Name-that-phase flash cards – Make cards that show stages of the eclipse for guests to guess.
Can’t Say, Don’t Say – List words guests can’t say. The person with the most pins at the end gets an Eclipse goodie basket with keepsakes.
Set up a live stream to view the eclipse from the start.
Visit exploratorium.com for more info on the eclipse.
Sun-dried goodies, like raisins or cranberries
Moon Pie marshmallow sandwiches
Moon-shaped pimento cheese sandwiches
Milky Way candy bars
Star-shaped Rice Krispies treats
Meringue “moon rocks”