Solar Eclipse Party at South Beach

My best picture of the eclipse

Yesterday was the Great American Solar Eclipse and it was pretty awesome.  The media hyped it up and I got a little tired of hearing about solar glasses.  But, when all was said and done, it was a neat event and gave our country a moment of levity and awe when we most needed it.

Here at San Juan Island National Historical Park we had a Solar Eclipse Party at South Beach, part of the American Camp.  Ranger Raena, our Education Specialist, put the event together.  She ordered 300 pairs of solar glasses from NASA and 100 Solar Eclipse Jr. Ranger books and badges.  She organized “green” partners to celebrate solar energy and borrowed telescopes with the proper filters.

Looking a little blurry because it is so early

Tom and I worked the Solar Eclipse Party.  We were in charge of the children’s activities.  Unfortunately it meant we had to be in Friday Harbor at 6:45 yesterday morning – a wake-up time of 5:30 for me.  But we helped load the trucks and went with the other NPS staff down to South Beach at 7:30.

We got set up just in time for hordes of people to descend.  Ranger Raena originally hoped that 200 people would come.  We ended up having over 1,000!  People drove, walked, hiked,  and rode the shuttle buses to get there.  It was definitely a party on the beach.  By 9:30 we were out of viewing glasses and by 10:15 we were out of Jr. Ranger books.

Valerie helping with children’s activities
Tom talks to a young viewer
Eclipse shadows through finger holes
A thousand people at South Beach
People spread out everywhere
Rangers line up to watch
Demonstrating a pinhole projector
Solar eclipse art
Viewing safely through a telescope

People sat on driftwood and gazed up at the sun (not too long at once and only with proper glasses).  When we ran out of glasses, people generously shared with others or gave away extras.  The Jr. Ranger books included kid-sized viewing glasses, so people really appreciated those.  People ooohed and aaaahed and clapped when it we reached our maximum.

We were not in the path of totality, but we were about 90% so it was a good show.  Tom spent most of his time teaching people how to make eclipse shadows through a pinpoint hole or through their fingers.  I helped kids make bookmarks with solar-powered color change beads and passed out pinhole projectors.

We ended up swearing in about 25 Solar Eclipse Jr. Rangers.  Hopefully some of the kids that took books will finish them today and turn them in to get their badges.  The badges are wood which makes them unusual for NPS badges.

After our maximum coverage at 10:20, people started packing up and leaving.  It took until 11:30 for the shuttles to get everyone back to town.  By noon we had packed up and headed back to English Camp.

Normally I do not seek out crowds.  If I saw an event like this advertised, I would prefer to watch the eclipse in a quiet place.  But the Solar Eclipse Party at South Beach was so much fun, enjoying the event with 1,000 others.  It truly was an enjoyable, party atmosphere.  The sun and moon put on a show and had plenty of appreciative viewers.

I’m looking forward to April 2024, when the path of totality will go over Ohio.  I will be looking for a solar eclipse party to join – or organize.