Solar eclipse dazzles viewers in Hopkinsville and Lexington

The crowd goes wild as the sky goes dark

A view of the total solar eclipse from Orchardale Farm in Cerulean, Ky. Thousands watch from the point of greatest eclipse just outside Hopkinsville.
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A view of the total solar eclipse from Orchardale Farm in Cerulean, Ky. Thousands watch from the point of greatest eclipse just outside Hopkinsville.

The sun and the moon put on a dazzling show in Kentucky, where some of the commonwealth saw the moon completely block out the sun, and others observed at least 90 percent of the sun covered.

“I’ve been reading and learning about it for 10-plus years, and all of that did not do justice to what just occurred right here,” said Carter Hendricks, mayor of Hopkinsville, after his town experienced the point of greatest eclipse, where the axis of the moon’s shadow was pointed most directly at the center of the earth. “It’s a great reminder of how powerful this universe really is.”

As daylight turned into dusk, many visitors in downtown Hopkinsville cheered, clapped and whipped out their phones to record the highly awaited phenomenon.

John Mitchell, from Milwaukee, Wis., teared up as he recalled the moment where the moon obscured the sun.

“I was amazed,” he said. “It gives you the perspective. We’re pretty small compared to what we just saw.”

Gov. Matt Bevin was in Hopkinsville, Ky., to watch the total solar eclipse, along with thousands of other people.

Eclipse viewing events were also held throughout Lexington, including the University of Kentucky Arboretum, Thoroughbred Park and the Kentucky Horse Park. Crowds in town watched as nearly 95 percent of the sun was obscured just before 2:30 p.m. Monday afternoon.

Among those at Thoroughbred Park were Linda and Terry Sanders, both in their late 60s. They remember the last total eclipse that spanned the country in 1979 and considered traveling to a place where the eclipse was total this year.

Instead, the couple stayed home and picked up one of the 500 free pairs of eclipse glasses handed out at Thoroughbred.

“I love how the city did this. It was a really good idea,” Terry Sanders said.

It was the first eclipse for Tom Butler, 44. Making it extra special was experiencing it with his family, including 10-year old Elena and 7-year-old Nicholas.

“It’s really remarkable. I’m sorry we didn’t go see the totality, but it’s hard to pull off,” the Lexington resident said. “We have been talking about this all week and it’s a really special time. In 2024, we’ll go to totality.”

The next total eclipse in North America will be April 8, 2024, with the path coming from Mexico, entering the United States in Texas and exiting through Maine. Paducah will be the main Kentucky city in the eclipse’s path, along with the major U.S. cities of Dallas, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo, N.Y. The Illinois town of Carbondale has the distinction of being in the “path of totality” for both the 2017 and ’24 eclipses.

Perhaps fueling that desire to see the total eclipse was the 5 percent of sun that peaked through the sky in Lexington. Butler said he was a little surprised the sky was as bright as it was.

But to see the looks on his children’s faces was the ultimate reward for Butler.

“They were delighted and it was special to experience it with them,” he said.

Many people made the journey to Hopkinsville for the total experience.

Some visitors, such as Eleanor Rowland, from Huber Heights, foresaw the traffic rush and came early. She arrived in Hopkinsville at 5 a.m. Monday and hung around the parking lot of the Christian County Justice Center, which filled up quickly after sunrise. Rowland had never seen a total solar eclipse before.

“If you’ve got a chance to see something like this, I think it’s worth the trip,” she said.

The mood was low key, relaxed and fun in downtown Hopkinsville’s Peace Park. Starting about 9 a.m., a crowed filed in gradually. Street performers, from dancers to a harmonica player with a tip jar, entertained while some stretched out on the ground watching the sun and others popped in and out of the shade to take a look. One group even played scrabble while waiting for the sun to disappear.

Some businesses altered hours for the celestial event. The McDonald’s in Beaver Dam posted that it would be closed from 1:15 to 1:30 p.m. to let its employees experience the eclipse.

As total coverage approached in Hopkinsville, some people watched through a pinhole projector made with a Cheez-It box.

Viewers donned a wide variety of viewing glasses, including pilot goggles and welding masks.

“It looked like a spotlight looking down on you,” Lilly Strader said, after watching the eclipse in Hopkinsville. Angie Strader, her mother, added, “The darkeness was neat, the temperature dropped, it was amazing. I got a little emotional. Some tears fell, because it was an amazing event to see.”

At 1:24pm CT, the skies above Cerulean, Ky. went dark as the total solar eclipse crossed the United States.

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Herald-Leader staffers Morgan Eads, Trey Crumbie, Mike Stunson, Will Scott, Alex Slitz, Charles Bertram, Caitlyn Stroh, Jesse Lynch, Marcus Dorsey, Dorothea Wingo, Greg Kocher, Peter Baniak and Rich Copley contributed to this report.

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