Hundreds of residents flock downtown for eclipse viewing (SLIDESHOW)

ALL Eclipse 250pm
ALL Eclipse 250pm

For an event that wasn't planned out just two weeks ago, the library's eclipse watch party at Ballard Park Monday afternoon was wildly successful.

An estimated 2,000 residents attended the festivities in the park Monday, creating traffic jams in the downtown area and causing organizers to run out of glasses within a hour of the gates opening.

Mary Rindfleisch, the library's assistant director, said the turnout greatly exceeded her expectations.

“We were amazed and thrilled at the amount of interest and the general good spirits of everyone who attended and shared with their neighbors,” said  Rindfleisch. “We really wanted this to be a community event, not just a small program at the library.  

“The police estimate about 2,000 people attended,” she added. “A couple of weeks ago we thought we might get 200 and be pleased with that. But then eclipse mania everywhere hit last week, and national media started telling people to go to their libraries for viewing glasses.”

Rindfleisch said the event couldn’t have happened without the library’s co-sponsors, the Ridgefield Parks and Recreation Department and the Discovery Center.

She also thanked DJ Sean “Big Daddy” McKee for providing the event’s soundtrack, the Ridgefield Police Department for helping with crowd control, and members of the National Charity League and various Boy and Girl Scout troops for volunteering their time.

From Mercury to Nebraska

Over at Founders Hall, retired physicist Vernon Beck hosted an eclipse viewing with about 60 residents.

“I did the transit of mercury a few years ago, and then this came up, and I said 'gee, why not?’” said Beck, who used to work at IBM.

On Monday, he projected the image of the eclipse on the ceiling of Founders Hall using a telescope his wife won at her company's lottery years ago.

“The weather report said 10% cloud cover, this is more than 10%” Beck told The Press.

Sandy Staples, who works at the front desk in Founders Hall, recalled watching the eclipse from rural Nebraska in 1979. She viewed it through an old box with a pinhole.

“I remember being unimpressed, but the fact that it was dark during the day was interesting,” she said.