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Eclipse draws crowds from near and far to region

Updated: 2 days ago

Viewers gazing at the eclipse.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s an eclipse.

April 8, 2024 was a day that will go down in history.

All across southern Ontario thousands of people gathered to watch the first solar eclipse since Ottawa saw a partial solar eclipse in the early morning of June 10, 2021.

Photo Submitted by Sandy Older

The weather didn’t cooperate for all areas. The Niagara Region was overcast although some people were lucky enough to catch a glimpse. Most of Essex County had clear, sunny skies, at least until approximately 3:14 p.m. when the temperature dropped and night time fell for about three minutes, there were even a few very confused mosquitos flying around.

Susan Harrison of Harrow (background) and Nancy Myers of South Bend, Indiana (foreground) were at Holiday Beach Conservation Area in Amherstburg observing the solar clipse April 8, 2024.

Izzy Grondin and her friends Isaac Moore, Noah Renaud, and Paige Jimmerfield, were all watching the event for the first time from G.L. Heritage Brewery. For the most part they all thought it was pretty cool, but Jimmerfield said “I thought it was a little bit anticlimactic, I was expecting to see the ring around the sun from behind, but it was just really dark.”

GL Heritage Brewery partnered up with Bryerswood Youth Camp Optimist Club to create a family friendly event. Children were able to make and design their own sun visors and bracelets or color pictures. Families played corn hole, a parachute game, or just relaxed in lawn chairs or on blankets in the open fields and enjoyed snacks from Nat’s Wraps and Apps food truck. Adults enjoyed the creative brews made at the brewery.

Brandon Rino is one of the owners of the Pepper Cat restaurant on Dalhousie St. in Amherstburg.

“I thought the eclipse was beautiful, said Rino. “We came here because we wanted to support another local business and check out a once in a lifetime solar eclipse.”

Also in attendance was a retired educator to share the status of, and science behind, what was occurring up in the sky and its impact on people and nature, and Essex County’s newest radio station CKRT Border City Radio was on site doing interviews and entertaining folks with some great classic rock.

The next total eclipse in Canada won't be until Aug. 23, 2044 and will be visible in the Rockies.

At Holiday Beach Conservation Area, the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) hosted “Celest-Fest at the Beach” with crowds lining the beach and setting up lawn chairs on grass areas nearby to catch a glimpse of the total eclipse.

Angie Stockwell and Ken Dufour came in from LaSalle to view the eclipse through their special glasses.

“Through my work, I got tickets,” said Stockwell. “I’m excited.”

Dufour joked he just got back from vacation and left early to go view the eclipse.

“My boss is cool, he said ‘go ahead’,” said Dufour.

Dufour added it is a local event and one that doesn’t happen too often.

“The weather is perfect too,” added Stockwell.

Bruce and Andrea Kraler from Amherstburg arrived early at Holiday Beach to get a good spot.

“We’re retired and we’re looking for something to do on a Monday,” Bruce said, with a laugh.

Andrea added they were actually expecting more people but enjoyed the event. There were food vendors and games nearby in the hours leading up to the eclipse itself.

“It’s something unique,” she said. “It’s the perfect spot for it.”

Susan Harrison and Nancy Myers were among those who lined the beach to view the eclipse. Myers stayed with Harrison, with the latter being from Harrow, as Myers drove in from South Bend, Indiana.

Myers said she was in Florida for an eclipse a few years ago and wanted to see this total eclipse. She said she enjoyed some wineries and some hiking while in the region as she came to Canada last Friday to beat the border traffic.

“I was going to drive east and go somewhere in Ohio,” she said.

When Harrison said the eclipse would be visible over Lake Erie, Myers made the trek to Canada.

“I took off work today,” said Harrison. “It’s a big deal.”

Harrison recalled being in school in Minnesota as a child and an eclipse being a learning experience for the entire school. Myers added she cares about nature and wanted to see how the eclipse would impact it.

Susan Szalay and Deb Furlong came to Amherstburg from Kitchener-Waterloo. Szalay noted she is a senior and wanted to ensure she experienced the event. She also wanted to see how nature would be affected.

Susan Szalay and Deb Furlong from Kitchener-Waterloo travelled to Amherstburg to view the solar eclipse at Holiday Beach Conservation Area.

“I’m interested in how the wildlife would react to the eclipse,” she said.

Noting they arrived last Saturday and rented an AirBnB on Lakeside Dr., they were headed out immediately after the eclipse. They found the area to be “lovely” and said it was the first time they went on a trip for such an occasion.

“I had never imagined taking a dedicated trip to see an event like this,” said Szalay.

Danielle Breault Stuebing, director of communications and outreach services with ERCA, said the attendance at Holiday Beach Conservation Area was high.

“It was fantastic,” she said. “We had nearly 500 people here.”

Breault Stuebing said she knew of people from as far as North Carolina who came in for the total eclipse.

“People enjoyed themselves and actually lined up for the big event,” she said.

John R. Park Homestead in Essex was in 100 per cent totality but she added Holiday Beach was close at 99.99 per cent.

“It was a really remarkable experience,” said Breault Stuebing.

Eclipse draws crowds from near and far to region

By Donna Tuckwell and Ron Giofu

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