story: Kerri Regan
Celebration At The Sundial Bridge
The Sundial Bridge is not only a breathtaking pedestrian bridge – it’s also the world’s tallest sundial. And in honor of the one day per year that it tells time precisely, Turtle Bay Exploration Park will host some of the bridge’s most ardent fans there to celebrate the summer solstice.
The park’s annual Summer Solstice at the Sundial is set for June 21, the longest day of the year, when the sun is at its highest.
“What better place to take part in this celebration of the year’s longest day than at the world’s largest sundial?” asks Angela Byrd-Udovich of the Redding Convention & Visitors Bureau, “It is really fun to count down to high noon with other people who have a common interest.”
The bridge’s 217-foot angled pylon serves as the sundial’s gnomon, and it casts its giant shadow on a dial plate at the north end of the steel, glass and granite bridge. It tells time from 11 am to 3 pm, using 17 white markers that measure time in 15-minute increments. You can actually watch the sundial’s shadow move, just like the hands on a clock, at a rate of about one foot per minute.
Although the solstice is the lone day where the sundial tells time with true precision, “we sundial lovers like to remind everyone that when sundials were used to tell time, they didn’t have to be 100 percent accurate—I mean, it’s not like we would be late to a dentist appointment or something,” Udovich says.
The solstice celebration will feature scads of creative activities for children provided by Turtle Bay’s Museum Teen Volunteers. The Hat Creek Observatory will provide scientific data and images from the radio telescope. Solar telescopes will be on hand. And if you’ve got questions, you’ll find answers. Why does the time stamp say 11 am instead of noon? Is the time actually correct? Whose idea was it to build a sundial, anyway? These questions and more will be answered at the event, Udovich promises.
Last year, cloudy skies threatened to ruin the production – but participants would have no part of that. They simply linked arms and pretended to be the shadow, slowly moving toward to the noon marker, Udovich says.
“The countdown culminates with much applause and lots of smiling faces,” she says. “For this moment, you really feel like you are part of a community.”
Summer Solstice at the Sundial Bridge
Sunday, June 21 11 am to 1 pm