They had considered traveling to Nebraska, or perhaps Kansas City, but instead the Texas couple wound up watching the solar eclipse from Wichita’s Exploration Place.
“It’s a day in the park, hanging with folks, sitting with the dog,” said Eric Schmidt as the sun began to show again.
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“God knows when we’ll see another one again,” added Eliana Solera, Schmidt’s wife.
The Texas couple had brought eclipse glasses, multiple welding shields and huge binoculars that could be combined with the shields to look toward the sun. As the eclipse crossed Kansas, they shared their equipment with others at Exploration Place.
“Here’s an opportunity in life,” Schmidt said. “Grab it.”
Solera and Schmidt were surrounded by about 2,500 to 3,000 people at Exploration Place. People watched the moon cross the sun, enjoyed food trucks, played games like cornhole and made pinhole viewers.
For some, the day began early. Keziah Liggins, 11, was first in line outside Exploration Place at 5:30 a.m.
Her family was the first to get their solar eclipse glasses shortly before 11:30. About 20 minutes later, all the glasses – roughly 900 – had been handed out.
"It’s been exciting and I like to have memories," said Brenda Harden, Keziah’s grandmother. "This will be a nice one."
Several hundred people left the line disappointed they hadn’t received glasses. Some went home, but others stayed, watching the eclipse through pinhole viewers or shared glasses.
This eclipse is the first in a century to cross the United States from coast to coast. The next solar eclipse visible from the United States isn’t until 2024.
Many at Exploration Place’s party said they were eager to see a historic moment.
Fourth grade students from St Joseph Catholic School arrived with pinhole viewers in hand, made out of cereal boxes.
"I’m excited because it’s the first eclipse in my lifetime," said Jayma Schnoor, 9. "I’ve seen a lot of commercials and read things online. They said it’s going to look like a ring around the moon."
Not long after 11:30, cries of "I see it" and "it’s there" filled the air outside Exploration Place as people tried on their glasses and watched as a small circle began to eat its way into the sun.
Manuel Gonzalez pulled his daughters Angelina, 8, Mercedez, 10, and Victoria, 6 out of school to see the eclipse, since it happens so rarely.
Before going into Exploration Place, the three girls tried on their glasses – which they’d received from the school system – and excitedly described the sight of the eclipse.
"I saw a little bit of dark covering the sun," Angelina said before offering to share her glasses. "Want to look?"