Doesn’t matter the occasion, Red Oak always seems to dress the part. Takes her no time at all to get ready, either.

“We’ve had people do their own versions of movies down by the cave, and we’ve had a lot of professional photo shoots for special occasions like Quinceańeras,” says Renee Oakley, facility manager at Red Oak, the Fox Valley Park District’s sprawling 80 acres of forest, greenspace and wetlands along the east bank of the Fox River in North Aurora. “People recognize the backdrop of nature – the opportunities it presents – and they want to utilize it.

“It’s gorgeous year-round here, even when it’s a pre-spring brown.”

On Monday, a team from CBS2 Chicago stopped by Red Oak, a favorite spot of local freelance photographer Ethan Chivari who was capturing stills of wildlife in the woods and along the river. CBS2 Chicago reached out to Chivari for a segment previewing the April 8 total solar eclipse, “and the preparation of shooting it, more so on the solar/safety part of it,” says Chivari, who chose Red Oak as a meeting spot due to fond memories from visiting and exploring during childhood.

“One angle they wanted to pursue was whether you could successfully shoot it with your regular phone.”

Before Monday’s interview taping, which was staged on the brick patio outside the Nature Center, Chivari fanned out a stack of eclipse lens filters like one would a deck of cards.

“We’re tapping into Ethan’s passion and expertise for the super-amateurs who are staying in the area to take pictures with their Apples and Samsungs,” said Lauren Victory, CBS2 reporter.

The segment is scheduled to air during Friday’s 10 p.m. newscast on CBS-Ch. 2 Chicago.

Viewing party at The Wilds at Red Oak

Although the Chicago area does not reside within the solar eclipse’s path of totality – downstate Carbondale will go dark for 4 minutes, 19 seconds – residents here can expect a partial total eclipse with up to 94% coverage, a noticeable phenomenon.

“You have to re-wire your brain and tell it that this stint of shade and darkness is taking longer than a cloud passing by,” Oakley says. “It’s a little bit unsettling because you’re aware that the world is different.”

Red Oak staff has organized a Solar Eclipse Viewing Party from noon to 3 p.m. on April 8 at The Wilds at Red Oak, 1400 N. River Rd. (Rte. 25) in North Aurora. Guests are encouraged to bring their own picnic lunch and watch the progression of the eclipse – the last one viewable in Illinois for the next 20 years.

Eclipse-themed activities, treat bags and viewing glasses will be provided to all who register.

“We’re using our ‘edu-tainment’ model and delivering the eclipse and all the fanfare around it in a fun way,” says Christy Graser, the FVPD’s environmental education supervisor. “We’ll have NASA on the TVs, but it’s more of a drop-in, a place for people to gather.”

Says Oakley: “It’s a big deal. And it’s a not-very-often deal.”