Ohio’s path of totality offers ‘transcendental’ solar eclipse experience for thousands

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Monday’s solar eclipse gave Ohioans a chance to celebrate and reflect. The celestial event blanketed much of the state in darkness for a few minutes – giving children and adults a chance to revel in science and ponder their significance in the cosmos.

Between 150,000 to 575,000 were expected to arrive in the Buckeye state to watch the total solar eclipse cast its shadow over Ohio. The crowds forced some state parks to close after hitting capacity and caused some traffic headaches as people headed home after the spectacle.

But largely, people were given a perfect day to enjoy the first eclipse to hit Ohio since 1806.

At Indian Lake, the event was a chance to begin moving past the deadly tornadoes that ripped through the area last month.

Eclipse-gawkers drank beers, made new friends and made merry at Indian Lake Brewing Company, just a few blocks from where the tornado struck.

The town had come alive, mimicking a busy weekend during the lake’s peak season—the brewery filled with customers eager to try the themed brews. For example, it offered one dark beer named “235 seconds” for the amount of time Indian Lake was shrouded in darkness in totality.

As people drove along the lake searching for a place to view the eclipse, the significant devastation from the storms remained obvious: destroyed homes, splintered trees, crumpled roofs.

Eclipse watchers gaze up at the total solar eclipse from a lakehouse on Indian Lake on Monday. This is the first total solar eclipse to pass over Ohio in more than 200 years.

Despite the destruction, Indian Lake was not somber. Cheers and claps rang out from a backyard eclipse party along the lakeshore as the moon overtook the sun, draping the community in darkness. A speaker blared Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” as day looked more like dusk.

Around the lake, a 360-degree sunset descended. The moon became an orb of blackness draped in a shining white cloak. The people in the crowd gasped in awe and muttered, “I can’t believe this.”

“It’s been a good day” said Rebekah Smith, one of the brewery’s co-owners, as she surveyed the scene in her bar.

For a community still cleaning up from the deadly disasters of last month, a good day where visitors found joy in gathering for a once-in-a-lifetime event was a welcome respite.

Patrons at Indian Lake Brewing Company in Russel's Point ordered astronomy-themed brews at a total solar eclipse party on April 8, 2024. Co-owner Rebekah Smith, right, said she was worried people might not show up because of tornado damage in the area, but she said the bar has been busy all weekend.

Finding deeper meaning in Marysville

As one of Columbus’ closest big cities with more than three minutes of eclipse totality, Marysville was prepared. The city’s chamber of commerce and tourism offices had 21 scheduled events, from cartoons for kids at the Avalon Theater to a golf outing at The Ridge Golf & Gardens.

But in a quiet field at Eljer Park, a few blocks away from the commercialism, hundreds gathered.

Jake Elmer, laying down, is overwhelmed during the totality of the eclipse at Eljer Park in Marysville.

Some might have wondered if the roughly three minutes of tranquility (about 3:10 p.m. to 3:13 p.m.), could last longer.

Jacob Elmer, of Philadelphia, described the moon-casting shadow as the ultimate dimmer switch, calling it “transcendental.”

“That’s what life’s all about,” he said. “The power of looking at the sun with your own naked eyes — and it’s not in the sky.”

The day’s weather was nearly perfect. A beautiful 70-degree day with a light breeze. When totality arrived, the temperature dipped to about 60. The wind stopped. A ring of diamond-like crystals emerged from the sun’s edges, visible without annoying carboard glasses.

“It looked like a black hole that was about to suck all the planets into it,” said Liam Elmer, Jacob’s 10-year-old son.

“Thanks for sharing that lovely thought,” his father said.

Witnessing joy in Wapakoneta

Right to left, Stella, 11, Christian and Amanda Tong look up as the eclipse begins at Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta. The family is in Ohio to get treatment for their son, Leo, at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Christian Tong found the museum event.

The atmosphere was joyous as hundreds of people watched the eclipse from the lawn of the Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta.

The city, in western Ohio, was in the path of totality, and the museum’s festivities—including food trucks, a DJ, shave ice, T-shirts, and museum tours—drew many visitors from near and far to the birthplace of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.

As the DJ announced two minutes to totality, cheers sounded, people wrapped blankets around themselves as a chill snuck into the air and the wind gusted. As darkness slowly began to cover the lawn, people looked up through their eclipse glasses, exclaiming about the beauty of the sun and sky.

“Beautiful” is the word Stella Tong, 11, used to describe the total solar eclipse from her viewpoint, lying on a grassy hill in front of the museum.

“It was amazing, it was absolutely amazing,” said her dad, Christian Tong, 51.

The family — which also includes mom Amanda Tong, 48, and son Leo, 7 — traveled from their home in Tampa, Florida, to Cincinnati to get treatment at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for Leo, who has a rare health condition.

Doug Hansell, 67, and his wife BJ, 64, came from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to see the eclipse in totality.

For him, the eclipse highlights human’s place in the universe — and how “we’re just a tiny piece of what’s out there” — and seeing the total eclipse brought Hansell feelings of “overwhelming joy.”

Doug Hansell, 67, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, looks through his telescope as the total eclipse begins at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio on Monday.

It brought tears to his wife’s eyes.

“It was just such an overwhelming experience,” she said. “You can’t believe this is happening in front of you, it’s like seeing a baby being born.”

Learning while watching at COSI

Hundreds of people from across Ohio made their way to the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) at 333 W. Broad St. to watch the once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse as it made its trek across the skies of Buckeye State.

Garretson Bernard, 9, 4th grader from Westerville, checks out the sun after getting glasses at the COSI Epic Eclipse Experience event before the solar eclipse on Monday in Columbus.

The eclipse viewing party was hosted outside on the pavilion as hundreds of people lined up to get a COSI box kit, which included solar eclipse glasses and information about COSI. Demonstrators behind tables performed science experiments for onlookers while waiting for the moon.

There was no lack of excitement as oohs, ahhs, claps, and other sounds of celebration erupted when the moon made its way in front of the sun at 3:12 p.m. and cast the area into temporary darkness. Dozens could be seen with their phones pointed at the sky while placing their eclipse glasses at the front of their camera lenses to get a video or picture.

For Frederic Bertley, president and CEO of COSI and affectionately known as “Dr. B.,” told the Dispatch that it was a day to witness a magnificent feat of nature that also brought people together from all walks of life.

“The most fun part is seeing people excited about science,” Bertley told the Dispatch during the COSI event.

Shirley Bernard of Westerville understands this importance. She and her children, Garretson, 9, and Zuri, 7, visit COSI regularly and have a deep interest in the sciences and the arts. Bernard said that when she learned about the eclipse, she started looking for events to attend in Columbus and came across the COSI eclipse viewing party. They were happy to learn that COSI was hosting the event.

“We love coming here,” said Bernard.

Apr 8, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Children gather on top of a playground climbing dome to watch the first total solar eclipse to cross Ohio in more than 200 years at COSI's Epic Eclipse Experience event.