Wichitans Go Near--And Far--To Watch Solar Eclipse

Aug 21, 2017

Though the city wasn't in the "path of totality," Wichita residents got to enjoy the solar eclipse Monday afternoon.

Thousands of people took part in an eclipse watch party at Exploration Place in downtown Wichita.

The science museum hosted one of the several special events in south-central Kansas during the eclipse time period of 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Solar telescopes were set up so people could see the partial eclipse without using protective glasses.

"It looks like when you see photos taken of a crescent moon or something like that," said Newman University student Delaney Hiegert. "But you can see where the moon is going through. It’s like if you look through your glasses, it’s like a giant version of that. It’s pretty neat."

Exploration Place provided free eclipse glasses to the first 1000 people in line; a museum spokeswoman says nearly 3000 people turned out for the event. 

Andrew Tenbrink, left, and his son, Jason, watch the eclipse Monday afternoon.
Credit Carla Eckels / KMUW

Across town, Andrew Tenbrink and his four-year-old son, Jason, watched the eclipse together near McDonald's Golf Course.

"It’s just a little sliver of light in the sky right now, compared to a blinding light of the sun," Andrew said as he crouched next to his son, who compared the sight to an "orange banana."

The two had been waiting for the big event for some time; Andrew said he bought protective eclipse glasses online more than a month ago.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Wichitans not content to see just a partial eclipse made the trek up north to watch the total solar eclipse as it made its way across the U.S.

Racine Zackula of Wichita and her family found a spot near a city park in the small town of Geneva, Nebraska, not far north of the Kansas border. 

Eclipse watchers fill up a city park in Geneva, Nebraska.
Credit Courtesy Racine Zackula

Zackula said the area filled up quickly with out-of-town visitors.

"We’ve seen license plate tags from all over the surrounding areas: Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and Arkansas," Zackula says. "One of the things that’s kind of striking to me is that everybody is so nice because it’s like a holiday. It’s a 'science holiday.'”

Geneva is home to about 2200 people. Zackula estimates there were about 500 people in the park.

She says there was a lot traffic heading north on Kansas highways on Monday morning.

"We stopped in Concordia, and one gentleman looked at us and said, 'Going to the eclipse?' And we said, 'Yep!' He said that he has never seen it so busy on a Monday morning in his town. There’s a convenience store in Geneva, Nebraska, and it was packed this morning. We couldn’t even park around it," Zackula says.

The peak of the eclipse occurred shortly after 1 p.m.

Also in the path of totality was the small town of Sabetha, Kansas, about an hour north of Topeka. People from Japan, Britain, Texas and California all came to Sabetha to see the moon cover up the sun for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, a pretty long time in the world of eclipses. 

Beverly and Robert Miller, from Syracuse, New York, were stunned. 

"This is a little scary," Beverly Miller said as the eclipse neared totality. 

Motels in Sabetha had filled up by Sunday night. Some rooms that usually sell for $50 went for several hundred.

The next time a total solar eclipse passes over the U.S. will be in 2024--but Kansas won't be in the path.

Follow Jon Huber on Twitter @HuberKMUW

 

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org. Carla Eckels and KCUR reporter Sam Zeff contributed to this story.