Skygazers Prepare for Celestial Show of a Lifetime
March 27, 2024 by Rose Nemunaitis

With Geauga County being in the path of totality for the upcoming historic solar eclipse, many event organizers are asking, “Where will you be on April 8?”

With Geauga County being in the path of totality for the upcoming historic solar eclipse, many event organizers are asking, “Where will you be on April 8?”

All Geauga County school districts will be closed that Monday, while many people are taking vacation days to participate in eclipse watch parties or step outside to celebrate the natural phenomenon at home.

“It’s a lifetime natural spectacle that’s coming right to Geauga County,” GPD Naturalist Chris Mentrek said.

On average, Earth experiences a total solar eclipse every 18 months. The last total eclipse visible from Geauga County happened on June 16, 1806 — it will not experience another until Sept. 12, 2444.

The phenomenon occurs when the moon passes between the sun and earth, completely blocking the face of the sun and casting a shadow on Earth. The moon’s shadow is narrow, so only a small strip of the United States will see a total solar eclipse. Other sites will experience a partial solar eclipse, according to multiple sources.

“Of the 88 Ohio counties, 55 will see the total solar eclipse. The remaining will see a partial eclipse,” said Allyson Kobus, member of the Geauga County Planning Commission.

“In Geauga County, totality will last about three-and-a-half minutes,” Mentrek added. “The exact amount of time that a particular spot will experience totality will vary by a few seconds depending on where it is within the path of the moon’s shadow. In general, places to the southeast will experience totality for slightly less time than places towards the north and west. For example, we’re predicting that totality will last for about three minutes and 43 seconds in Thompson, compared to about two minutes and 56 seconds in Parkman.”

Mentrek provided the following additional details and tips for eclipse-viewing:

  • In Geauga County, the eclipse should last from about 1:59 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Since the moon’s shadow sweeps from southwest to northeast, places toward the southwest will catch it a few seconds earlier than the northeast;
  • For about the first hour and 15 minutes, viewers will need to use some kind of eye protection to view this “partial phase” of the eclipse. Eclipse-viewing glasses, filtered telescopes and other sun-safe viewing aids are all great options;
  • The most-exciting part of the eclipse will be when the moon totally blocks the sun — the moment of “totality.” In Geauga County, this will happen right around 3:14 p.m. This is the time when eclipse-viewers will want to take off their eclipse-viewing glasses and enjoy the view with their unaided eyes.

So, grab a pair of safety eclipse viewing glasses and pack your patience as you head out to one of these area events, or simply head outside.

GPD Hosts Watch Party on Fairgrounds

Geauga Park District has partnered with The Great Geauga County Fair board to host a free large-scale viewing event at the Geauga County Fairgrounds in Burton.

The event kicks off at 11 a.m. and the parking lots open at 10:30 a.m., with pre-eclipse activities held until 2 p.m., followed by viewing of the eclipse with free eclipse-viewing glasses while supplies last, and various other activities, according to GPD, which asked that people leave pets and drones at home.

A variety of food trucks will be on site and bleacher seating will be available, or participants are welcome to bring their own picnic and lawn chairs/blankets.

Additional features include a pop-up nature store with eclipse merchandise, multiple viewing stations with various equipment, citizen science projects, multiple photo opportunities and more.

Eclipse on the Square in Chardon

A free eclipse-view event will also be held on Chardon Square from noon to 3:30 p.m.

Organizer Becky Repasky said she is anticipating more than 1,000 people on the s quare that day.

Parking will be available at Chardon Library, the gravel lot behind Geauga Theater, and parking lots behind Main Street buildings and around the square.

There will be food trucks, a student art show, featured speaker and eclipse-inspired activities, Rapasky said.

A presentation called, “Totality Explained Simply – Eclipse on Chardon Square,” will be given by Maria Rybak — who holds a master’s degree in astrophysics and medical physics, a master’s degree in astrophysics from Nicoulaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland, and a master’s degree in medical physics from Cleveland State University — inside the Geauga Theatre at noon and 1 p.m., Rapasky said.

The Heritage House will also host a student art show and face-painting and the Rotary Club of Chardon will provide complimentary viewing glasses at the Heritage House beginning at noon, she said.

Family activities and crafts will be held in the Park Elementary School auditorium and commemorative T-shirts will be on sale for $12 and are available at Chardon City Hall, she added.

“I had someone from Oregon email me for a T-shirt we are selling,” Repasky said. “I thought, this is huge. Someone wants a ‘Chardon’ shirt featuring the eclipse time of totality … I did not fully understand that magnitude of the event until meeting with Tom Vencl, deputy director of emergency management for Geauga County, (who) shared what he was anticipating. Up until this point, just the committee was meeting to discuss activities to have for visitors.

“I then had to shift to inviting the police and fire chiefs to plan for various scenarios,” she added. “While making sure everyone has a great time, it shifted to making sure we as a city are prepared.”

Century Village Museum Hosts 3-Day Event

Century Village Museum, 14653 E. Park Street in Burton, is hosting a Solar Eclipse Festival April 6, 7 and 8.

Daily gate fees will be $10 for adults, $6 for ages 4-12, and free for kids 3 and under, and events include daytime entertainment, daily activities and vendors, according to the museum, which added fees would go toward the village and farm upkeep, educational resources and artifact preservation at the museum.

Donations of non-perishables for the Veteran’s Food Bank are also welcomed.

For the big day, “Community Shoe” will provide live music and participants are welcome to bring blankets and lawn chairs. Primitive camping will also be available, according to the museum, which directed those interested to its website for more details.

Farmer’s Almanac Talks Weather

“The path of totality will run from Texas and Arkansas up through the Ohio Valley and into northern New England. Parts of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada will also witness totality,” according to Old Farmer’s Almanac 2024. “Weather will likely play a more significant role in viewing this time than it did for the U.S.’s west-to-east eclipse in August 2017, as a completely overcast sky is less common during the summer, and clouds are more likely in the spring.

“Now, because the April eclipse will be tracking across eastern U.S. and Canada — where storms regularly move through — the probability of cloud cover over the path is greater than it was before,” the almanac added. “Viewing will be more of a gamble in spots like Cleveland, Buffalo and Montreal, where clouds are more common. Although our April forecast does call for rain in the Ohio Valley on the 8th, skies do look to be mainly dry from the Great Lakes and New England up into Quebec and Atlantic Canada.”

Last year’s weather brought cooler temperatures, sun and clouds.

Fox8 Cleveland’s Meteorologist Scott Sabol said earlier this month if it was Las Vegas, the odds would be stacked against Ohio for sunny and 75.

“I’d put the historical odds with a clear day at 20% to 25%, but hey, this is Cleveland we are talking about. Anything is possible off the shores of Lake Erie,” he said.

“It will hopefully be a beautiful day and we are prepared,” GPD Special Events Coordinator Holly Sauder added.

Your Safety Matters:  Stay in the Light

The Geauga County Sheriff’s Office has been working with area law enforcement to ensure a safe eclipse day in Geauga County.

The GCSO will have extra deputies working at the Geauga County Fairgrounds for the Geauga Park District’s event, as will Chardon and Burton police departments for their neighboring events.

“One thing Chardon does very well is host large events,” said Geauga County Department of Emergency Services Director Tom Vencl.

Chardon Square’s event organizer,  Becky Repasky, noted Chardon police will be helping direct traffic out of town after the event; the Chardon Fire Department will be on stand-by for any emergencies; the street department will be posting signs directing visitors to events; and the eclipse committee will be identifiable via yellow lanyards to assist people with questions or concerns.

Burton police are working with GPD Sgt. Mike Rose and Vencl to ensure their community events are covered, said Burton Police Chief Rick Smigelski.

“The Burton Street Department will be assisting with any detours that might have to be implemented,” he said. “The Geauga County Historical Society is also hosting an event. We will be assisting them in any needs they might have with traffic and patrol during this event.  Please keep an eye on our Burton Police Facebook page for further updates.”

GCSO Chief Deputy Thomas Rowan provided the following tips:

  • When you leave the house, bring an extra battery charger for your cell phones. It’s always a good idea if you’re going to be in a big crowd somewhere to take a picture of your child and what they’re wearing so that if you get separated, the GCSO has a good description of what they look like;
  • Have a plan with your group in case you are separated;
  • Do not look directly at the eclipse unless you are wearing appropriate eclipse safety glasses;
  • Do not stop in the roadway to watch the event. If you are driving, pull off to a safe area to do so.