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Kansas City residents look for partial solar eclipse thrill: 'I haven't seen one in 45 years!'

Donna Williams, left, and her daughter, Jill Petitijean, watch the eclipse at Legacy Park in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, on April 8, 2024 — Petitjean’s birthday.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Donna Williams, left, and her daughter, Jill Petitijean, watch the eclipse at Legacy Park in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, on April 8, 2024 — Petitjean’s birthday.

The April 8 solar eclipse sweeping across the U.S. hit 89% coverage at its peak in Kansas City, just before 2 p.m. Cities along the path of totality saw a boom in tourism from out-of-towners trying to catch the last North American solar eclipse until 2044, but residents around the metro found ways to watch closer to home, too.

Mark Campbell and his family traveled from Overland Park to Vincennes, Indiana to catch the total solar eclipse.

"Very temperate, clear skies, only high cirrus clouds in the skies," he told KCUR's texting exchange on Monday morning. "We are ready and excited!"

Crowd at Legacy Park in Lee's Summit, Missouri, view the partial eclipse around 1:50 pm. on April 8, 2024.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Crowd at Legacy Park in Lee's Summit, Missouri, view the partial eclipse around 1:50 pm. on April 8, 2024.

People on both sides of the state line seized their opportunity to catch totality by traveling to Arkansas, Texas, Missouri and Illinois.

One Wichita astronomer headed to Austin, Texas, with his wife, and Carbondale, Illinois, was flooded with solar enthusiasts hoping for clear skies.

"Traveled to Wimberley, Texas, to see the totality!" another text told KCUR Monday morning. "Took my 2 kids out of school. We saw the totality in Kearney, Missouri, in 2017 and it's important to witness these things when you can because it's rare!"

Bob Riddle, an amateur astronomer with the Astronomical Society of Kansas City, shows an image on his phone that comes from a digital telescope he is using to track the eclipse on April 8, 2024.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Bob Riddle, an amateur astronomer with the Astronomical Society of Kansas City, shows an image on his phone that comes from a digital telescope he is using to track the eclipse on April 8, 2024.

Thousands more in Kansas City fanned out across the metro Monday, hoping to experience a veil of darkness in the middle of the afternoon.

At the amphitheater in Legacy Park in Lee's Summit, more than 200 people showed up for a watch party.

A man in a black T-shirt holds eclipse glasses in front of his eyes and looks up.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Lee’s Summit resident Darryl Janes gets an early peek at the eclipse as the moon starts to cover the sun around 1:00 p.m.

Another watch party cropped up at the Overland Park Arboretum.

Emily Walkenshaw, 20, and Sierra Woolschlager, 20, drove up from Clinton, Missouri. They walked around the arboretum Sunday just before closing, and decided to come back to watch the eclipse.

Just inside the park mid-morning on Monday, they ran into others who'd also come early to settle in and gaze up at the sky. The new friends ended up spending the day together.

“We've never been here," said Terisa Thomas, who came with her 19-year-old son, Shaun. "I just looked up where's the best place to see the eclipse. Then we got probably about 10 or 15 feet in, saw (them) and started talking. We just kind of all met today."

Spectators at the Overland Park Arboretum gather to see the partial solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.
Zach Perez
/
KCUR 89.3
Spectators at the Overland Park Arboretum gather to see the partial solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

Kansas City is just outside the so-called "path of totality," in which the sun is completely covered by the moon, temperatures fall and animals freak out when it turns dark.

Angela Elam, 67, went to the Baker Wetlands in Lawrence, Kansas, to experience the eclipse, "listening to birds, bees and frogs, waiting to see if they go quiet."

After the eclipse was over, we asked if the wildlife noise did die down. "Not really," she said. "The bees kept buzzing around the beehive. The birds and frogs got a little quieter but didn't go silent. It just didn't get dark enough, but it was still nice to take the moment during the day to just watch and listen to the natural world."

But the temperature did drop noticeably as the moon covered the sun, and colors looked strange as the eclipse dimmed red color wavelengths and brought out greens.

"Viewing from work (KC Zoo) and school," one person texted KCUR. "Wish we could have traveled. Important to us bc we are a STEM loving family with a special interest in astronomy. We are excited!"

A man in a black T-shirt and baseball cap holds eclipse glasses up to his phone camera as he snaps a picture. He sits in a folding lawn chair with an umbrella attached to the back.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Bob Jones from Lee’s Summit takes a photo of the eclipse using a solar filter over his phone at around 1:30 p.m. Monday, April 8.

North America has been spoiled with two solar eclipses close together — the last one was in 2017 — but it will be another 20 years until eclipse fans get the chance to see another eclipse over the continental U.S.

"It's not complete totality that we're witnessing, but the setting at the lake is (still) lovely," Mark Winkler texted KCUR from Stockton, Missouri, moments after the eclipse was over. "We're putting our sailboat back in the water."

Bob Riddle, an amateur astronomer with the Astronomical Society of Kansas City sets up a telescope so it projects the eclipse Monday afternoon at Legacy Park in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Bob Riddle, an amateur astronomer with the Astronomical Society of Kansas City sets up a telescope so it projects the eclipse Monday afternoon at Legacy Park in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

Whether you make it to the path of totality or not, it's essential to be safe as you take in the celestial event. Wear safe eclipse glasses, use your phone camera wisely and prepare your pets.

This story uses information gathered from KCUR's texting service. Learn more and sign up here.

Madeline Fox is the assistant news director for KCUR. Email me at madeline@kcur.org.
I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions.
As KCUR’s Community Engagement Producer, I help welcome our audiences into the newsroom, and bring our journalism out into the communities we serve. Many people feel overlooked or misperceived by the media, and KCUR needs to do everything we can to cover and empower the diverse communities that make up the Kansas City metro — especially the ones who don’t know us in the first place. My work takes the form of reporting stories, holding community events, and bringing what I’ve learned back to Up To Date and the rest of KCUR.

What should KCUR be talking about? Who should we be talking to? Let me know. You can email me at zjperez@kcur.org or message me on Twitter at @zach_pepez.

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
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