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A total solar eclipse was visible in South Africa in 2002. In 2017, it’ll be Hopkinsville, Ky.

Furthermore …

Great – yet reasonable – expectations

Local United Way officials are rightly – and reasonably – raising the bar for the next annual campaign, setting a $5.4 million goal that is 6 percent above this year’s.

The United Way has good reason to be hopeful. The 300 workplaces that run campaigns have two key additions – Vera Bradley and Medical Protective. Vera Bradley leaders got off to a good start with a $25,000 corporate gift. Matching gifts from the Indiana Association of United Ways will also help.

Contributors to United Way can take reassurance in knowing that programs receiving the organization’s assistance are well vetted by community volunteers and staff, and relatively little of the money goes toward fund-raising expenses. In choosing which programs to fund, the United Way and its volunteers set community priorities to direct money where the need is greatest.

“Just as the needs and opportunities in our community grow and evolve, so does United Way,” said Todd Stephenson, president and CEO of United Way of Allen County. “Our four priority areas of education, income, health and basic needs encompass the greatest needs in our community, and we’re expanding in areas such as our education initiatives to provide additional resources to support early-childhood learning.”

Giving to United Way through a payroll deduction is simple, and even the smallest donations help. Residents who want to contribute but who do not have access to a workplace campaign can donate by calling the United Way at 422-4776 or going to www.unitedwayallencounty.org.

Chicago’s unending headache

Fort Wayne had the infamous Pontiac Turnaround.

After Interstates 70 and 65 opened through downtown Indianapolis, portions were called the Spaghetti Bowl.

But area residents who visit Chicago know those pale when compared to the Circle Interchange – the true Spaghetti Bowl, a confusing and poorly designed intersection of the Dan Ryan, Kennedy and Eisenhower expressways and Congress Parkway.

The Illinois Department of Transportation says the Circle averages 300,000 vehicles and three accidents each day, the Chicago Tribune reported. Many are trucks, and federal highway officials say the Circle is the worst highway bottleneck for freight traffic in the nation.

Fixes being considered are estimated to cost roughly $375 million. That is a lot of money. But consider that Illinois transportation officials say each car that travels through the Circle is delayed an average of 10 minutes – and that’s a collective 25 million hours a year waiting on the interstate.

Contest in deep doo-doo

The summer drought is responsible for some far-reaching and unusual problems, including causing a severe shortage of cow chips that threatens a popular contest in Wisconsin.

Organizers of the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival had to dip into their reserves to ensure they have enough cow dung to fling at this year’s event. The cow chip throw draws about 40,000 visitors to Prairie du Sac, Wis., every year.

Because of the drought and high temperatures, cattle stayed closer to barns rather than wondering out into pastures. That left fewer prize-winning manure patties in the pastures. Cow chips in the pasture are able to dry and flatten into suitable throwing objects.

Organizers collected a third the usual amount of cow chips this year. But, fortunately, they had about 150 to 200 saved up from previous years in reserve barrels to ensure this year’s competition could go forward.

The place to be in 2017

The event is five years away, but already Hopkinsville, Ky., is buzzing with plans for a once-in-a-lifetime event that will make it one of the most desired places in the world to be – for about two minutes and 40 seconds.

On Aug. 21, 2017, a total eclipse of the sun will be visible from several states, but the eclipse will last the longest in Hopkinsville. It will be the first total eclipse visible from the mainland since 1979.

Thousands of visitors are expected in the town 82 miles south of Evansville. Already, groups from Japan and Germany have reserved more than two dozen rooms at one local hotel. And, in five years, Hoosiers should be able to get close to Hopkinsville by driving on an expanded I-69.

Coincidentally – we think – on Aug. 21, 1955, there was a report of a spaceship with aliens landing in Hopkinsville, and the city of 32,000 celebrates a Little Green Men festival each year.

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