Hundreds of Barton County residents watched the solar eclipse together on Monday, as crowds gathered early at the Great Bend Public Library, Barton Community College and the Kansas Wetlands Education Center.
The sun was hidden by clouds in the morning, but by the time the partial eclipse was underway here, around 11:30 a.m., those with eclipse-viewing glasses could see a sliver of the sun had been covered by the moon’s shadow.
Donna McCormick, who works at BCC, brought her grandchildren Haley, Kylie and Levi to the campus over the lunch hour.
“I can see a whole sun! It’s right there,” 7-year-old Levi said, looking through the dark glasses.
A steady stream of students stopped by the viewing area where Planetarium Director Tim Folkerts had set up an eclipse projector fashioned from a pair of binoculars. Folkerts was quickly running out of eclipse glasses, and a student asked if they were necessary.
“You can certainly damage your eyes, especially if you stare at the sun for any length of time,” Folkerts warned.
About 200 people also visited the BCC Planetarium on Sunday for Folkerts’ pre-eclipse program. It was the best turnout yet for a planetarium program here, he said.
Great Bend Public Library and the Kansas Wetlands Education Center offered free hot dogs and lawn games and gave away all of the eclipse-viewing glasses they had.
“People were very nice and shared,” KWEC Manager Curtis Wolf said. He also made a pinhole camera for an alternative method of viewing the eclipse.
Harold Larson from Hoisington arrived at the KWEC at 9:30 a.m., just to be sure he’d be first in line for a pair of the NASA-approved eclipse glasses.
“It was sure worth coming out to see,” Larson said.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Hoisington resident Martha Boyle said.
Around 1 p.m. about 95 percent of the sun was covered to Barton County viewers.
“It’s a little tiny cylinder of moon,” said 7-year-old Sydney James, looking up through her glasses. “Imagine if you were in outer space.”
“The moon’s the dark part — that’s the sun,” her dad Steve James, Great Bend, reminded her. James said his work could have taken him closer to the path of the total eclipse, but he preferred sharing the experience with his daughter.
Phil and Kim Grossardt brought their own eclipse glasses, purchased online several weeks ago. Megan Farmer, Claflin, said her father made her viewing device from welding glasses.
Three generations of Streckers from Ellinwood — Catherine and Monty, Laura and Nick, and children Sophia, Oliver and Nick Jr., experienced the eclipse together. Catherine Strecker said they appreciated all of the preparation the KWEC staff put into the event. “They did a great job,” she said.
But, after two hours of hot dogs, yard games, and occasional looks at the eclipse, most children were getting restless.
Melissa Slack, Great Bend, said the grandchildren she brought to the KWEC had seen enough. “They’re bored and they want to go home.”
Other parents were facing a similar situation. Comments were degrading from “Oh wow, that’s cool!” to “Can we go now?”
Those who want to enjoy the experience again will have their chance on April 8, 2024. However, the path of totality won’t travel through Kansas. The closest it will come to Barton County is Oklahoma.