Cicadas chirp in confusion. Mothers mat all but opaque lenses to toddler heads for fear of slippage. Teens stare at cardboard and into cereal boxes. The music kicks back in, and the DJ shouts out into a hot mic.
“Let’s give it up for the moon!”
Just another Monday afternoon in Fort Mill.
More than 1,000 people arrived at the Anne Springs Close Greenway to watch the mid-day solar eclipse. Most of them just after noon, as a sign went up at the entrance about 10 minutes into the festivities letting drivers know the Greenway was all out of eclipse glasses. The first 750 people got them.
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No matter for many of them. Plenty on hand planned well in advance.
“It’s just a simple pair of binoculars, is all it is,” said Charlotte resident Clinton Groves, who had them inverted and attached to dark backing to create a projection onto paper. “Just trying to keep it straightforward.”
Almost as straightforward as Fort Mill resident Greyson Sweeney, 3. He couldn’t let an upturned camera pass without conveying the warning he’d likely heard many times before the eclipse started.
“You have to put on your glasses,” Sweeney said.
Then, he demonstrated.
Not far off, at least one teacher from the Fort Mill school district sat reading a book in the coming faux-dusk. At least a dozen students threw footballs, baseballs and the like. Some chased bubbles from the stage set up beside a large horse ring and, naturally, sunflowers. Fort Mill joined other districts in the area with a half day for the eclipse.
Chris and Michelle Vigna had an even simpler solution for enjoying the eclipse with sons Nick, 13, and Mason, 10.
“We live in Charlotte,” Chris said. “School hasn’t started back yet.”
That gave the family, regular Greenway visitors, time to come down for the all natural light show. Chris gave the employees at his plumbing company their own half-day off. The family made its own eclipse day tee shirts last night. They figured why get stuck in traffic chasing the path of totality, when they could get outside and enjoy the event with a little elbow room?
“I was pumped,” Chris said. “Half a day off. This is great.”
While the eclipse on their shirts were safe for the naked eye, the actual event in the sky required a fair amount of caution. While keeping the music going the DJ gave updates on solar coverage. He reminded folks not to look at the sun without protection. In pockets all along the perimeter, people obliged. Toward the center, they laid in the grass and stared into darkened glasses.
They were quiet and still for the couple of minutes with the most coverage, as the temperature dropped. But they were looking well in advance and for a while still afterward, unwilling to miss any of an event that just doesn’t happen around here often.
“This is awesome,” Chris Vigna said.