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Tourism students bring vision for Indy’s Lunacy! Solar Eclipse Festival to life

Mar 20, 2024

As Indianapolis prepares for an event of cosmic proportions, Visit Indy and White River State Park are calling on IU Indianapolis students to help make the Lunacy! Solar Eclipse Festival happen.

Lunacy! At White River State Park event logo On April 8, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to travel to Indianapolis to get a prime view of the total solar eclipse. Though totality lasts over three minutes in Indy, a full day of events is planned to celebrate.

“This is a festival format to make an entire day of fun where all generations, all walks of life can come together and do something fun on something that will never happen again in our lifetime in our city,” said Erica Shonkwiler, who teaches the tourism, event and sport management senior capstone class at the IU School of Health & Human Sciences on the Indianapolis campus. “We have a very long-standing, warm partnership with Visit Indy, and one of the adjunct instructors in our program, Jeff Robinson in the marketing department at Visit Indy, reached out to me last fall to see if our students could help.”

The 18 students in Shonkwiler’s capstone class are working on all aspects of the event, including event strategy, marketing, planning and coordinating with vendors. The students are broken up into six working groups and operate like a real events organization.

“It’s really important that our capstone experiences are always bringing unique things to the table that provide professional experience,” Shonkwiler said. “Getting out of the classroom is the backbone of our whole program.”

Eclipse: IUPUI Senior Capstone Class

When they started their work in January, students pitched their entertainment ideas to White River State Park including performances by local musicians and dance groups, a mural, Tabata and yoga sessions, giant yard games and family activities. Now, those ideas will become a reality.

Aminah Coyne, a senior majoring in tourism, conventions and event management, is part of the class’s marketing team organizing and designing promotions for the events.

“We are making all the promotional graphics; we are working on communicating with our other teams and White River State Park,” Coyne said. “At first it does seem a little intimidating to come and plan an actual event, but being able to get that real-world experience, I’m very grateful for it.”

White River State Park’s beautiful green space will be open for the public to bring blankets and chairs to watch the eclipse. Along the old Washington Street bridge, 20 food trucks will be lined up and feature signature dishes for a food competition.

There is also space to relax and take in the eclipse from a hammock in a section of the park called Naptown, or reserve a kayak to watch from the river itself.

“We’re actually activating the White River for the first time ever, which is really exciting,” said sophomore Jenna Drake, who is interning with White River State Park. “The park is really trying to clean up the river and get people to use it more for leisure activities, so Frank’s Paddlesports Livery is coming and doing canoes and kayaks.”

Drake is working with Shonkwiler’s class to recruit volunteers for the event. She said 60 to 100 volunteers will be needed to help with everything from setting up chairs to working information booths to cleaning up the park afterward.

“We’re a free nonticket eclipse event in Indianapolis, so we really want the community and students to come out and be involved,” Drake said.

“I’m so passionate about the park. I started running in the park before I ever became an intern, and when people didn’t know it existed, I’m like ‘You’re missing out’ because it’s such a beautiful space and it’s in IU Indianapolis’ backyard.”

The Lunacy! Solar Eclipse Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 8. The eclipse itself begins at 1:50 p.m., with totality starting at 3:06 p.m. Eclipse glasses will be offered first come, first served.

“I love to see how hard work pays off and makes people smile,” Coyne said. “I’m excited to see everyone enjoy our activities and just enjoy the vibe of the solar eclipse.”


University Communications and Marketing

Elizabeth Cotter

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