Wapakoneta over the moon with eclipse events

WAPAKONETA — “Two minutes to the eclipse!”

The grounds of the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta had been abuzz with activity Monday afternoon as more than 5,000 people descended on the facility in preparation to see the long-anticipated total solar eclipse.

Whether it was a small step or a giant leap to get to Wapakoneta, visitors were excited to make the trek to Neil Armstrong’s birthplace to take in the potentially once-in-a-lifetime celestial event. Music had been playing over loudspeakers across the grounds, featuring songs like Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade,” Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and Coldplay’s “Sky Full of Stars.” Families shared laughs as they set up their camping chairs and blankets to get comfortable for the show.

When that announcement came over the loudspeakers, a hush spread over the crowd as the sky continued to darken with the sun and moon coming more into alignment.

It was the moment everyone was waiting for.

For Mary Robidoux of Glenelg, Maryland, the chance for she and her husband David to take in Monday’s total eclipse was worth the nearly 500-mile trip.

“We were looking for someplace right along the main (pathway) with the longest time (of totality), and we ended up deciding to drive to Columbus yesterday, about a six-hour drive,” she said. “Once I started researching the town and saw their website and all the activities they were having here, and the fact that Neil Armstrong was born here, we wanted to have the whole experience.”

For the Robidoux family and others, having that Neil Armstrong connection made Wapakoneta an attractive destination for viewing the eclipse, along with Wapakoneta’s central location along the eclipse’s path of totality.

For Wapakoneta Mayor Dan Lee, seeing the crowd gathered at the museum, along with another viewing party at the Auglaize County Fairgounds and other impromptu gatherings in parking lots along Auglaize Street and other parts of Wapakoneta, was a priceless opportunity to show the world what his city has to offer.

“We’ve had a lot of traffic coming into Wapakoneta and coming downtown and out to the fairgrounds,” he said. “To have all these people come into Wapakoneta and see how really cool it is is such a blessing. I know the event is attracting them, but what I hope is that when they meet the people, they’re attracted to come back.”

Armstrong Museum curator Logan Rex also saw the opportunity to bring some positive attention back to Neil Armstrong’s birthplace and the museum that bears his name.

“There have been so many people who have never been to the museum, and they decided that today was the perfect day,” he said. “There are so many people from out of state and out of the country, and they specifically chose Wapakoneta.”

As of noon Monday, Rex said an estimated 1,200 visitors worked their way through the museum, and he estimated that at least double that amount staked their viewing spot on the grounds.

One family that chose Wapakoneta and the Armstrong Museum consisted of Lynelle Reibel, her husband, Andrew, and their daughter, Echo, 15, along with Echo’s friend, Laura Hambrick. Lynelle and Echo both have an interest in space, so coming to Armstrong’s birthplace was the natural choice.

“The whole concept of this being a place of special significance (was important),” Reibel said. “We were thinking about Cleveland, but it was more of a big city. We wanted a smaller community.”

That setting felt even more intimate as the sky continued to darken just after 3 p.m., with cheers rising up as the eclipse reached totality. As the protective eclipse glasses came off and people took in the scope of the event, some laughter could be heard, while others watched in reverent silence. That silence was broken with another exuberant cheer as the first rays of the sun peeked out, returning the sunlight to a city already soaking up the spotlight.


See more stories about the eclipse.