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Eclipse: View from StapletonTell North Platte what you think
Photo by Jordan Janicke
The view from Clayton Janicke's telescope.
Photo by George Lauby
Kathryn Miller, at left, and Jill Meakins wear handmade eclipse necklaces as they get ready to find a good vantage point at 8 a.m.
Photo by George Lauby
Braedon, 8, and Brandy McGreer with their eclipse viewing masks. The parking area is in the distance. (click or tap on images to enlarge)

Some 6,000 people watched the total eclipse from the Logan County Fairgrounds Monday, spread peacefully over a quarter-section (a half-mile square) of pastureland.

They came from all over.

People were in the mood to get acquainted, and they did not have to look far to find visitors from New Mexico, Texas, England or Denmark, in addition to the neighboring states of Colorado and Kansas.

Traffic resembled rush hour in a city after the eclipse, but was never a problem in the morning. Cars, pickups and campers arrived slowly and steadily at the fairgrounds, seldom waiting to enter the field. A handful of buses also pulled in, carrying people from North Platte and such schools as Curtis.

Amateur astronomers set up high-powered telescopes and offered to let people nearby take a look through the lenses.

The wide-open spaces had no trees to reflect the light, but there was a wide view of the sky and the eclipse to satisfy the crowd.

Tom Griego and his daughter Katharine arrived at the fairgrounds at 7:30 a.m. from the Denver suburb of Arvada, where they left around 1 a.m.

“We heard I-25 was busy into Wyoming,” said Tom, a retired high school industrial arts teacher who enjoyed teaching his students about eclipses when they occurred. “My wife was born in McCook; so we decided to come out here.”

Kathryn Miller of California joined her friend Jill Meakins of Denver. They read that west central Nebraska was the No. 4 viewing place in the U.S., with relatively few clouds this time of year. First, they traveled to Johnson Lake south of Lexington to see an aunt, and hit the road early for Stapleton. There was virtually no other traffic, they said.

Clouds were a worry, with heavy fog in the early morning and possible rain in the late afternoon. The doubtful weather forecast prompted a charter airplane to cancel a landing at North Platte Regional Airport. The passengers were scheduled to charter a bus to Stapleton, but the plane flew on, looking for a better place, the bus driver said.

Happily, the early morning fog lifted around 10 a.m., revealing only wispy clouds, and appropriately, the clouds parted shortly before 11:30 a.m.

As the heat of the bright sun became overpowering, the sky began to darken and the temperature began to fall. As the eclipse crept toward totality, the atmosphere was markedly pleasant. The subdued light was easy on the eyes.

Then, the moon blotted out the sun and the total eclipse was visible in its rare splendor. A single planet suddenly shone brightly overhead as the crowd cheered.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 8/23/2017
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