Monday’s total solar eclipse brought people from across the country to Missouri.  The “path of totality” crossed over the state diagonally from St. Joseph in the northwest to Ste. Genevieve in the southeast.

Photo courtesy of Missourinet affiliate KSSZ

The city of St. Joseph spent a year preparing for the celestial event, expecting to be inundated with up to 500,000 visitors.

In the days leading up to the eclipse, Beth Conway with the visitors bureau in St. Joseph told Missourinet there were several reasons the city expected to be a popular destination.

“We sit on two major interstates.  We’re only 30 minutes away from the international airport in Kansas City.  And historically here in northwest Missouri, that time of the year we’ve got clear skies.”

Crowds flocked to the area, but many of them departed for other locations when uncharacteristic heavy rain brought a heavy cloud cover just a couple of hours before the eclipse.

Those who remained in St. Joseph were able to view the rare passing of the moon in front of the sun, but better weather rewarded those watching along in other spots along the path of totality.

Two such destinations were Columbia and Jefferson City.  The Missouri Division of Tourism had projected at least 320,000 people would migrate into the state.

A number of out of state travelers chose to stop in Columbia, which conveniently sits right along the state’s busy I-70 corridor.

At the city’s Cosmo Park, Jeff Allende said he and a friend came down from Ladysmith, Wisconsin, about a ten-hour drive.  “To see things go dark, and get cool, then get light, I suppose,” Allende said. “I’ve got my welding helmet here, so I’m ready.”

Gary Wilson traveled from Washington, D.C. to Columbia, where he watched the eclipse at Rose Music Hall.  “We came because our son and his family live here, so we could come and visit our son, daughter-in-law and grandsons as well as seeing the eclipse” Wilson said.

Also at Rose Music Hall, a man named Feli said he traveled all the way from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to see the eclipse.   He added that he’s staying in the college town known for its nightlife through the weekend when he’ll celebrate his birthday.

Hundreds of people took in the eclipse at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City. That included former astronaut Dr. Janet Kavandi, who spent more than 33 days in space.  “We got to actually see something that’s really unique that most people don’t get to see in a lifetime,” Kavandi said.

In Callaway County, nearly 700 people gathered at the Canterbury Hill winery and Restaurant. Winery Event coordinator Layne Wallace says travel groups from as far away as Chicago watched the spectacle from the Winery’s hillside. Visitors also got a chance to watch a group of young students reacting to the eclipse at a nearby elementary school.

Hank Koebler and Robert Veno, Jr. contributed to this report