Solar Smash Bash sets stage for eclipse

LIMA — Lima will be totally dark for just under four minutes Monday afternoon, but the Greater Lima Region Park and Amphitheater was anything but at the Solar Smash Bash Saturday afternoon.

People from Detroit to North Carolina, all in town to view Monday’s solar eclipse, came out with Lima residents to enjoy a day of music, fun, food and astronomy at the local park and venue.

“We had more people attending than we expected, so that’s really good,” Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce director of programs and community development Julie Klingler said. “We’re just really happy to be able to show off our new downtown as it’s changing and revitalizing. We’re happy to welcome all these folks coming in and exploring.”

North Carolinian Natalie Mercer was searching for things to do with her daughter while visiting her husband working in Jackson, Ohio.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “We were talking about how this reminds us of our small town in North Carolina because we have a pavilion just like this with a lot of town events. It feels just like home.”

Melissa Smith said she and her husband brought their grandchildren from outside of Detroit to experience the eclipse.

“It’s a great event in a cute downtown,” she said. “We’ve never been here before.”

Lima residents were also able to take advantage of the fun.

“We were able to get some food and see the vendors,” Abbey Schnell said. “I think it’s good to have events like this in our small town and have people come out to experience this. And the eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

“I think like any other event, it brings a community together,” Sarah Hamsher said. “We saw people that we know and we can celebrate what’s coming together.”

Katie Crockett said she saw the commotion while visiting her son’s uncle and decided to check it out.

“I think it’s pretty neat,” she said. “It seems positive. The kids are out and enjoying themselves even though it’s kind of chilly out and it’s nice to have something to bring us all together.”

Those kids also got the chance to learn about the sun through a telescope provided by the Lima Astronomical Society.

“That’s my forte,” Astronomical Society treasurer Michael Ritchie said. “We’re talking about the eclipse, but we’re also looking at sunspots on the sun. They’re currently twice the size of the earth.”

Although the society can not open Schoonover Observatory due to staffing issues, Ritchie said he hopes everyone enjoys the eclipse and stays safe, wherever they may be viewing it.

“Make sure that you have your glasses on throughout the eclipse,” he said. “But once totality covers the sun, take them off because the sun’s corona will not harm your eyes. You don’t want to miss the best part of the eclipse, but once the sun comes back out, make sure you get those glasses back on.”

The total solar eclipse is set to pass over Lima between 3:10 and 3:14 p.m. Monday.

Reach Jacob Espinosa at 567-242-0399.