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Eclipse stuns, inspires, then is gone

Eclipse stuns, inspires, then is gone Tribune photos by Ilene Olson

While those in the south central part of Wyoming went totally bonkers over the solar eclipse, those in Park County were only 98 percent bonkers.

Maggie Sullivan, public services manager at the Powell Branch Library, invited the public to the library, surprising attendees with eclipse party food and drink consisting of Sunny D and Sunkist orange soda, Sun-Maid raisins, Sun Chips and Orbit gum.

Erica Duncan and her 3-year-old son, Remington, shared a pair of glasses on the steps of the library. She made sure Remington didn’t take a peek while she looked through the glasses, covering his eyes while she took quick looks.

“I know he’ll look if I let him,” she said.

About 35 showed up for the party, many noticing as the leaves from the trees acted like a pinhole camera, casting multiple images of the eclipse on the sidewalk in front of the library.

“It was beautiful,” Sullivan said. “What a rare treat to see something that we see everyday change like that.”

The library broadcast a live feed from NASA of Casper’s total solar eclipse, but many wanted to experience the eclipse live, filling the sidewalk on the east side of the brick building.

Devyn Crowe joined other Northwest College students near the bell tower on the Trapper campus. Crowe said she liked seeing the eclipse, especially at the maximum point, when she could see the light around the moon.

“I definitely don’t like the craziness about it, though,” such as the traffic and the hype, she said.

Being from Casper, Crowe witnessed more of that craziness than most people did, even though she left Saturday to come to Powell.

She said Casper city leaders closed down the downtown and set up an outdoor stage, and planned “a whole bunch of activities.”

“My parents were just planning on having a barbecue and hanging out with friends,” she said.

Scott and Justine Larsen of Powell planned for the eclipse for years and were among the many who experienced the celestial event in Casper. Scott, a graphic designer in Powell, designed several T-shirts for the event. Justine, a paraeducator in the Powell school district, made eclipse jam.

The couple and their children, Augusta, 15, and Charlie, 12, gathered with a group of friends and family. On Sunday night, they were pleasantly surprised by the ease of movement in a city named one of the greatest spots to watch the eclipse.

“We haven’t seen the massive crowds we were warned about. We have easily visited grocery stores, restaurants,” Justine said. “We’ve seen many signs offering paid parking. Some in our group went downtown to the Casper eclipse festival and that was busy but not overwhelming.”

Scott reported clear skies save some smoky haze from Montana wildfires and a bluebird overhead just prior to the eclipse. He thinks weather forecasts and smoke warnings may have scared viewers to other parts of the nation in the totality zone.

As the sun was shaded by the moon, Justine reported no need for sunglasses, the air being cool and the smell of sage being fragrant. The color change — an amber cast from the wildfire smoke — was profound, she said. Charlie and Augusta spent as much of their time enjoying the effects of the shadows as looking through their solar filter glasses.

“The kids were wowed,” Justine said.

“Very glad we came south,” Scott said, adding, “Totality is so much better than 99.9 percent.”

The time passed quickly and had a variety of effects on people. For the Larsens, the celebration was muted.

“There was not enough time during totality for anything but stunned silence,” Justine said.

Back in Park County, authorities who’d prepped for possible trouble from the uptick in traffic reported none.

“It’s just quiet,” said Sheriff Scott Steward.

Denise Kelsay and Steve Schrepferman both took a break from the Northwest College Art Department to watch the eclipse from on campus. But, much like the Larsens, they preferred to look down at the sidewalk more than up at the sun. There, the eclipse replicated itself countless times in shadows coming through the leaves on the trees.

“That’s the best part of the eclipse,” Kelsay said.

Todd Wilder, facility director for the Powell school district, and his wife Debbie Wilder, sat in lawn chairs in front of the administration building, across from McDonald’s, watching the eclipse in their cardstock solar glasses. Debbie wondered aloud if there would be a lot of children being born nine months from now named Moon, Sun and Eclipse.

Stephanie Drabble, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, got teary as the total eclipse passed.

“This is like a new beginning,” she said. “I’m going home and getting a divorce.”

(Ilene Olson contributed reporting.)

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