ALLIANCE — Nearly 1,000 people gathered south of Alliance to watch the astronomical phenomenon known as the Great American Total Solar Eclipse on a patch of land called Wells Ranch. Their Facebook page quickly spread like wildfire due to the fun and unique people that were posting and sharing their excitement of watching the big event at a ranch in Western Nebraska.
The Facebook page alone has close to 900 members, but ranch owner Kathy Wells stated, “I bet 75 percent of the people that messaged me weren’t even on our Facebook page.”
Even though Kathy and her husband Taylor opened up their ranch to so many people, she added, “I feel bad because we could have had more people stay with us but I had no idea how many campers 50 acres could hold.”
She posted on the group page, “Thank you ALL for coming and helping to make this weekend a truly once in a lifetime experience. Our hearts were so full by everyone's great energy and kindness that we feel the Eclipse was the cherry on top and not the main event … We would not have been able to pull this off if everyone would not have pulled together and helped out and bonded with their neighbors, were patient about the lack of facilities, kept everything so clean, and just in general made themselves part of our family … We cannot thank you enough and are so truly grateful to have been able to share it with you all!”
Mary Ann Hammond and her husband traveled possibly the shortest distance to stay at the Wells Ranch, coming from Fort Collins, Colo. Originally from California, Mary Ann stated that they have always been travelers.
She added, “What the Wells family ranch pulled off over three to four days lead up to ‘The Great American Solar Eclipse’ was nothing short of a miracle! By clearing a cow field, inviting strangers from near and far to camp, and then allowing the event to unfold, gave a lesson in kindness and respect for all.
“We were on the Nebraska honor system. Virtually no rules or regulations. It seemed to work. People pulled their RV’s and respectively parked and set up camp.
“Tent campers pitched and staked a distance away, knowing generators would be used … Children ran and played and flew kites. New friends were made riding bikes, playing games, and petting the ranch animals. Parents were not concerned about danger, their safety net being the entire campground of parents, grandparents and capable, friendly Wells staff … Seems simple. In reality, it was. In that, I mean what it accomplished was a genuinely good feeling for your neighbor, while taking in the Nebraska landscape and gaining excitement for a spectacle like no other.”
What the Wells ranch pulled together was a gathering of peace, love and respect. What they made look simple, took a lot of sweat, time, investment, and planning … their campers would likely agree that the entire world should experience one day of this sort of gathering and the "WELLS RANCH" experience.”
Like many others the eclipse was an emotional experience for Kathy, “I was overwhelmed! I might be one of those 65 percent or whatever that is now hooked on chasing the eclipse. Everybody started cheering! It was just amazing!”
Drew Wagar, an established author from Ashford, United Kingdom, traveled to Alliance just to view the eclipse from the Wells Ranch because it gave him a “chance to meet some local folk on a real ranch.” He stated that his time here was, “Absolutely amazing! (I) had a blast and everyone was so friendly too! Great time at the Ranch.”
He stated on the Facebook group, “Amazing to meet so many of you and thanks to you all for making me feel so welcome — especially Kathy and family — above and beyond what any could expect. Felt like I could have stayed forever.”
He added, “It (Alliance) was a cool place. I got to see Carhenge too! It made me chuckle! I thought it was quite a good copy to be honest — whoever built it must have had a good long look at Stonehenge.”
Wendi Butkovich and her husband traveled to the ranch from Brillion, Wis., a little town about half an hour south of Green Bay. Wendi stated, “We stopped last year at Carhenge on our way through town and saw the information there about the eclipse. We started doing research to find a place to go for the event. I looked around for places to stay, we wanted to camp away from the city so we could set up our gear at night and leave it up. We decided on Wells because Kathy Wells was very friendly and responsive to our questions and she had a great group on her Facebook page that made the weekend sound like a blast. We got to the ranch on Sunday afternoon, found a place to set up, and immediately felt that it was the right place for us …
“We are not overly social people, we keep to ourselves, but people would stop and ask us questions about the scopes and cameras, so many amazing people. We are so grateful for Kathy and her team that put on the meals and activities. I will never forget the sound of the crowd as totality hit, the energy and excitement ringing through the crowd! Wow. Just spectacular!”
Ell Flansburg joined the Wells Ranch party from Canton, Ga. She stated, “The Wells and their friends and neighbors did an amazing job in making everyone feel welcome! Mother nature cooperated and after a very gloomy start to the day, the sky cleared and we were treated to the amazing spectacle of totality! Thank you to the Wells family for making this an awesome experience! And thanks to the whole town of Alliance for the hospitality.”
Alliance resident Rachelle Moon is Kathy and Taylor’s niece that helped out when she could. She stated, “It was so awesome. The people were the sweetest, kindest, most respectful people!”
Kathy stated, “I’ve probably had at least 50 people say that they want to come back. They want to do a kite flying/star gazing/eclipse anniversary party next year! A lot of them are star people and so many people said that they had not ever seen the Milky Way the way that we can see it here, which was so cool … I try not to take that stuff for granted. I’m a big believer in the little things, I’ll see a butterfly land on a sunflower and I’ll actually stop and watch it. When you live in the city you forget those little things and I felt so blessed to be able to share the experience with everyone that stayed with us.”