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As Eclipse Madness Sweeps U.S., A Stonehenge Made Of Cars Prepares

Carhenge lies in the path of totality for the Aug. 21 eclipse.
Christian Heeb
Getty Images
Carhenge lies in the path of totality for the Aug. 21 eclipse.

Later this month, the moon's shadow will fall on Carhenge.

"Holy cow man, guess what? There's going to be an eclipse," says Kevin Howard, the head of the visitor's bureau for Alliance, Neb., which is home to the Stonehenge replica made of cars.

Alliance, with a population of about 8,500, is preparing for a deluge of visitors, including the state's governor, who has announced he will view the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse from Carhenge. Howard says the town is planning concerts, a 30-team softball tournament, a Native American powwow, plus all the churches will put out their best spreads. "There's nothing better than a meal at the church," he says. "Those ladies put out the good stuff."

The ancients who built Carhenge back in 1987 didn't know about this eclipse. Carhenge was the brainchild of a local named Jim Reinders, a petroleum engineer who spent years working in England. While there, he became acquainted with the prehistoric site of Stonehenge. It was built of giant rocks that people dragged for miles from the quarries. Archaeologists think the original Stonehenge was built to mark celestial events, such as the solstice.

Reinders wanted to build a version of Stonehenge as a memorial to his dad, who had passed away a few years earlier. But stones seemed heavy and cumbersome.

"So he decided if we build it out of cars, the wheels on it would greatly simplify the logistics," says Howard. "And besides that, there's not a stone in Nebraska that would work."

During a family reunion, Reinders' relatives rolled up with a bunch of old jalopies and erected Carhenge.

"Jim says it took a lot of blood, sweat and beers," says Howard.

People have been visiting Carhenge ever since.

Howard says the site has many draws. Photographers like the way the light plays on the different parts of the cars, he says. Car aficionados love trying to figure out which models were used in its construction. "Some people actually come to Carhenge expecting a mystical magical experience," he says.

"Carhenge is whatever you want it to be to you," he says. But, he concedes, it's primarily a replica of Stonehenge made of cars.

Anyone who wants to view the eclipse from Carhenge will be welcomed with open arms. And also, plenty of parking. "Aug. 21 is after the beans will be cut, after the oats will be cut, so we have fields that are open," says Howard. "We have a lot of room."

Update at 10 a.m. ET on Friday: Howard says the beans won't be cut by Aug. 21, so please don't park on them.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Geoff Brumfiel works as a senior editor and correspondent on NPR's science desk. His editing duties include science and space, while his reporting focuses on the intersection of science and national security.
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