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There goes the sun: Elachee holds solar eclipse festival
Science center event prepares visitors for Monday’s celestial show
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Savannah and Caroline Smith get lessons on a solar telescope at Saturday’s Solar Eclipse Festival at Elachee Nature Science Center. - photo by Kaylee Martin
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Savannah and Caroline Smith get lessons on a solar telescope at Saturday’s Solar Eclipse Festival at Elachee Nature Science Center. - photo by Kaylee Martin
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Children’s crafts at Saturday’s Solar Eclipse Festival at Elachee Nature Science Center included making a solar eclipse viewer. - photo by Kaylee Martin
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Visitors wait in line for admission to the STARLAB during the Solar Eclipse Festival on Saturday at Elachee Nature Science Center in Gainesville. - photo by Kaylee Martin

Before the sun disappears behind the moon on Monday, Elachee Nature Science Center prepared its visitors Saturday at a Solar Eclipse Festival, where visitors young and old came for a day of fun and learning.

Presentations throughout the day offered information on Monday’s solar eclipse, as well as the history of eclipses. Attendees could also view the sun through solar telescopes and visit the STARLAB, Elachee’s portable planetarium. Kids were able to enjoy face painting and eclipse-related crafts.

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Savannah Smith watches as her sister Caroline peers through the solar telescope at Saturday’s Solar Eclipse Festival at Elachee Nature Science Center. - photo by Kaylee Martin

The event brought in a huge crowd, though highly sought-after solar glasses were given to the first 450 visitors, that wasn’t all people were after.

“I honestly thought a lot of people would come just for the glasses, but that’s not the case at all. They are very interested in the eclipse that is about to happen and they genuinely want to learn about it,” said Kim Marks, Elachee’s director of communications.

“We planned this as a general astronomy day to share what school children get to experience with the STARLAB, and it’s been a huge turnout. So far we’ve had about 600 people come through and it’s not even noon.”

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Sophia Black takes a break from the eclipse festivities to get her face painted at Saturday’s Solar Eclipse Festival at Elachee Nature Science Center, while her sister Annalise looks on. - photo by Kaylee Martin

Despite the crowds, attendees enjoyed themselves.

“So far this festival has been really fun and informative,” said Missy Black. “My daughters and I got here around 11, but I overheard someone say that people were in line waiting this morning since 7. I had no clue that the eclipse would be this big of a deal, or bring this many people out.”

According to Elachee astronomer, Robert Webb, Monday’s eclipse is something people will not want to miss. 

“Solar eclipses are extremely rare,” Webb said. “The only place you can really see it is in the United States. Everyone will at least see a 51 percent partial eclipse, while here in Gainesville it will be 99 percent. From start to finish, the complete Solar Eclipse will last three hours, from 1:06 p.m. to 4:01 p.m. The special time of totality, when the sun is completely blocked, occurs during a 2.5-minute window starting at 2:35 p.m.”

Andrea Timpone, president and CEO of Elachee, put an emphasis on safety.

“We want people to know the science behind the eclipse, but we also want people to be safe,” she said. “Although we won’t be hosting a public event for the eclipse, we encourage people to participate and watch where they can. It’s truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness something like this.”

For more information about Monday’s eclipse, as well as a list of do’s and don’ts, visit Elachee's eclipse page.

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