ATCHISON, Kansas – Plunged into darkness, as they had been off and on during the morning, thousands of people cheered.
Intermittent rain did little to dampen the enthusiasm of those gathered at Larry Wilcox Stadium Monday.
The moment of totality brought a loud roar, along with the glow of thousands of cell phones held aloft.
When one shower forced Lucid Intervals to unplug, the band comprised of faculty members gave way to impromptu dancers on the 50-yard-line stage for some type of country two-step.
Down toward the end of O’Malley Field, students continued a Frisbee football game as if on a sunny day. Younger kids took part in a water balloon toss, the water seeming redundant. The uniformed students at St. Benedict Catholic School showed off their face tattoos.
A mother handed out snacks to a visiting grade-school class, including Eclipse gum and Starburst candy.
The family atmosphere appealed to Farrah Wright, who traveled with her husband and two children from Fort Worth, Texas.
“We love nature and we love astronomy. We homeschool, so I thought we had to,” she said.
John, her husband, cheerfully added, “It’s the first day of school, right?”
Along with the kids, daughter Eowyn and son Mercury, they scouted state parks near the line of totality, picking out a camping place near Lawrence, Kansas. They drove up Monday morning.
“We saw this place, and we read about the college and thought, this is perfect. It’s beautiful,” Farrah said.
Camber and Wes Moulton drove up from Oklahoma for much the same reason, wanting their 8-year-old son, Grady, to have the experience.
“We were pretty young when the last major one came through. I remember that when I was a kid, going outside and looking with the class,” Wes said. “I was in California at the time. It wasn’t a total eclipse.”
Zaldy Doyungan had a different motivation, strolling the stands and the adjoining practice football field interviewing people for a YouTube documentary.
“I like to travel a lot,” the Topeka man said. “The next one will be in about seven years, and I don’t know where I will be at that time. Right now, might as well just seize the moment.”
Mike and Connie Nader of Edmond, Oklahoma, set up camp on the practice field, reading while waiting for the eclipse to approach.
“I was looking for a smaller place that hopefully would not be so crowded. As I was looking around, Benedictine College came up,” Mike said. “It looked like a great place to come.”
Glancing up at the doleful skies, he added, “I’m a pretty positive guy. I’m hopeful that we will get some areas of clear.”
A spokesman for Benedictine said no official count existed of those who came to the Atchison campus Monday, but 5,000 pairs of eclipse glasses had been distributed to the crowd.