Cloud cover might have diminished Hays’ view of Monday’s solar eclipse, but it didn’t decrease people’s interest in viewing it.
A large crowd began to gather at Sternberg Museum of Natural History by 11 a.m., where staff helped children make pinhole viewers out of cardboard boxes and provided educational programs including a special exhibit and inflatable planetarium in the lobby.
Cloudy skies and even some sprinkles kept most people inside until shortly before the moon first became visible in front of the sun just after 11:30 a.m. Food trucks in the parking lot kept busy as people filtered out of the lobby to try and take a look.
Sixty-four second-graders from Wilson Elementary School sat in the lobby at Sternberg to eat their sack lunches instead of on the Howard Reynolds Nature Trail as planned.
With the first day of school in Hays USD 489 last Wednesday, the students didn’t have much time to learn about the eclipse before Monday, said teacher Tracy Archer
“We’re doing most of our actual teaching about the eclipse after the field trip. So today we’re just excited to let them come out and view safely with Sternberg professionals with the glasses and filtered telescopes,” she said.
“We’ve got some other activities we’re doing before that. Hopefully by the time we go outside, we’ll be able to see something,” she said.
They weren’t completely disappointed, as the clouds thinned out enough to view the eclipse with special glasses and pinhole viewers.
“It was pretty amazing,” said Wilson second-grader Cidnee Werth. “I loved the color of the moon.”
A group of friends from Ellis came prepared. Drew and Michaela Keller’s dad runs an auto-body shop, and they brought a welding helmet to watch along with friends Haley Reiter, Blakely Bittel and Kinley Kuppetz.
“I think it’s awesome. It’s fun,” Reiter said. “There’s more people than I thought would be out here.”
As the moon progressed, reaching its maximum coverage of 96 percent viewable from Hays, the skies darkened.
“I thought it would be brighter,” Reiter said.
“I honestly thought it’d be, like, beaming, like you’re going to get an eclipse burn,” Bittel said.
They weren’t the only younger people who didn’t know what to expect. Fort Hays State University students Kirstyn and Kayla Dvorak and Jacob Palmquist, all of Concordia, all happened to not have classes until Monday afternoon, so they went to Sternberg for the viewing.
“We weren’t able to find the glasses, but we ended up making these boxes,” Kirstyn said, showing her cereal-box viewer.
“I was thinking it was super-rare because everyone is making such a big deal out of it, but it happens all the time. It’s just the first time the U.S. has been able to see it in so long,” Kayla said. “I guess it hasn’t happened since before our parents were born.”
The last time a total eclipse was seen in the continental United States was 1979.
“I’m just really thankful that we get to experience it,” Kirstyn said.