The bright summer day went dim, crickets launched into an early rendition of their nightly mating calls, and Lexingtonians lifted their eyes in unison Monday. The total solar eclipse drew watchers across the city in several designated viewing areas.
Just after 1 p.m., a line snaked against a long row of trees at the Arboreum as excited eclipse junkies queued up for free viewing glasses. Jackie Gallimore, the children's education coordinator at the Arbtoreum, said there was no shortage of interest as the hour approached.
"We probably had, I would guess, 200 people in line and we handed out 100 glasses to the first people that came," she reported, while a trickle of disappointed late-comers came and left the booth empty-handed.
Nearby, Masa Welch corralled a small group of nervous children, even as she admitted some butterflies as eclipse moved closer.
"We've been here since 10 o'clock, 10:30, 11, some of us," she said, smiling. "Some of the kids are excited and scared. I'm actually trembling right now, yeah."
Moments later, Gary Hahn, rounds corner in full eclipse cosplay – overalls decorated like the earth and water while the rest of him is painted equal parts black and white.
"I am the eclipse, right?" he laughs.
Hann, also known as "Swampy," advocates for environment, energy efficiency, and wetland-related causes. He saw the eclipse as an opportunity to spread that message with some creative cosplay, which earned him selfie requests as he made his way around the grounds.
"People are really interested. People are excited. You know, it's been 99 years since we had this," he explained.
But the closer the clock ticked toward 2:30 p.m., peak viewing time in Lexington, the more heads were arched up as amateur astronomers, families, and the curious donned their glasses and surveyed the skies. The Arboretum took on the feel of early evening, with chirping emerging from the hedges. Reactions varied as onlookers took it in, some entranced and others only taking in brief glimpses between smartphone sessions.
Although many schools turned Monday into a vacation day, WUKY's Karyn Czar brought her microphone along to one that stayed open. The second- and third-graders greeted the eclipse with gasps, declaring "That's amazing!" and "I'm freaking out right now!"
Whether watching through eclipse glasses or pinhole boxes they constructed in science class, the students brimmed with enthusiasm as they watched the moon pass in front of the sun.
It’s been one year shy of a century since a total solar eclipse crossed the U.S. from coast to coast. Students thrilled by Monday's event will have to wait until April 2024 for another.