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Steve Minkin shows off his homemade viewer, made of a cereal box and a piece of tinfoil with a small hole punched into the foil. To see the eclipse, one looked inside the box through a square cut into the top to see the projected image of the sun.


Staring at the sun

Hundreds turn out for an eclipse party at the Putney Public Library

According to NASA, the next eclipse “visible from the Lower-48 will be on April 8, 2024, which will track northeast from Texas to Maine.” For more on this year’s eclipse, visit

PUTNEY—Library Director Emily Zervas did not expect hundreds of people to show up for the Aug. 21 eclipse party held on the library’s front lawn.

But in the days leading up to the big celestial event, she had an inkling it might be popular.

“People started calling this week, hysterically looking for eclipse-viewing glasses,” Zervas said. “I only ordered 45 pairs!”

NASA’s public service campaign, which implored people not to look at the solar eclipse without safety devices, seemed to work here.

As the party wound down, resident Honey Loring asked Zervas if this was the library’s most successful event.

“It would have been more successful had I known so many people would come. We didn’t have enough glasses,” Zervas said.

A few bystanders, including Loring, responded in unison, “People shared!”

One woman said that as soon as she got out of her car, someone handed her a pair to borrow. Putney resident Leon Cooper shared his glasses with State Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Putney, and a guest.

“I’m encouraged by Putney’s ability to share 45 pairs of glasses,” Zervas noted.

Creative viewing options

Sharing special glasses wasn’t the only way attendees safely viewed the solar eclipse, in which — from this part of the globe — the moon covered 65-percent of the sun.

Indoors, a large-screen television broadcast a live feed of NASA’s eclipse coverage, giving guests a place to sit and get out of the August heat while still enjoying the show.

Back outside, Steve Minkin showed off the viewer he made from a cereal box and a piece of aluminum foil. To see the eclipse, one looked inside the box through a square cut into the top to see the image of the sun projected into the box through a small hole in the foil.

“This is very high-tech,” Minkin said, and added, with a laugh, “I got it from NASA!”

Abe Noe-Hays brought a viewer that was almost as tall as the library building, made from 4-inch sewer pipe and some cardboard, which he lamented not decorating.

Most people didn’t seem to notice, as they were more engaged with the white piece of paper on the ground onto which Noe-Hays’s device safely projected an image of the sun disappearing behind the moon.

Lucia Turino’s eclipse-viewing device was simple and multi-purpose: a woven sun hat. When held aloft, the partly eclipsed sun projected tiny versions of itself onto the sidewalk.

Attendees also pointed out similar images on the concrete, made by the sun shining through leafy trees.

Astronomy enthusiast Carl Noe brought a solar-lens-equipped telescope. The telescope also projected the eclipse onto a large screen so many people could see it at once. For most of the party, the line to look through the telescope’s viewer was more than 30 people long.

While they waited their turn, Loring and friends — performing as the all-ukulele band Don’t Fret — sat nearby and serenaded those waiting for a turn at the telescope with songs about the sun.

“We practiced yesterday. Those are songs we don’t normally do,” said Loring’s bandmate, Dot MacDonald.

After the band’s set was over, some attendees felt inspired to continue the music a cappella.

“Everyone just started singing, ‘You Are My Sunshine,’” reported Jessica Vulte. “I kind of hummed a little bit.”

Solar energy

Many guests noted the festive atmosphere, saying how it seemed like a holiday.

Cynthia Major showed an attendee the text messages her adult children, Robin and Alex, sent from around the country.

Alex, in Colorado, sent a photo taken from his smartphone — safely, through eclipse-viewing glasses. Robin reported skies were a bit cloudy in Minneapolis.

“I think the community energy at this event is incredible,” said Minkin, who noted, “People traveled from as far as Brattleboro to be here!”

“This has brought people together,” said Caleb Matthiesen.

“It’s really great,” he said. “We need to have more eclipses.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #422 (Wednesday, August 23, 2017). This story appeared on page A1.

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