Partial Eclipse Was a Whole Lot of Fun  

Aug 22, 2017
Photos by: Ryan Morrill A composite image of the solar eclipse as seen from Sunset Park in Harvey Cedars.

Mid-afternoon Monday had a slight dusky feel as the solar eclipse peaked in Southern Ocean County. Although it was a partial eclipse, with about 75 percent of the sun blocked by the moon, it had been the first such eclipse to be seen coast to coast in 99 years, so plenty of people were interested in viewing the celestial event.

At Sunset Park in Harvey Cedars, Tom and Eileen Labetti and their two young children were set up in the gazebo, using their special solar eclipse glasses and following CNN footage on smartphones.

“The sun looks like the Pac-Man guy,” said Adrian Labetti, at the time the eclipse was at the three-quarters mark.

On the beach at 15th Street in Ship Bottom, lifeguard Vinnie Bolognese said he had to remind people about eye safety.

“It’s a pretty hot day and the beach is very crowded,” he said. “People were coming up to the stand asking about the eclipse.”

He said that when the eclipse peaked around 2:45 p.m., “it felt like a storm was coming.”

“It got a little dark as if there were clouds, but the sky was still clear,” said Bolognese.

Near the stand, a group of beachgoers were watching the cosmic event through special glasses.

“The beach is the best place to watch it,” said Joe Esak. “For a few minutes, it felt like a little cooler and windier.”

Randy Townsend, Harvey Cedars Beach Patrol captain, said eclipse viewing warnings were posted on the message board on the back of the lifeguard chairs.

“It was my first eclipse, so I went over to public works and watched it with welders glasses,” he said. “It was a neat experience.” 

Over at Manahawkin Lake Park, Lisa Dreher said she and a group of friends “had a great experience.”

“These events don’t happen too often, so we wanted to make sure we watched it,” she said. “Even though it was getting a little darker, the sun glare was very strong.”  

Valerie Meola, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly, said parts of South Jersey had the eclipse obscured by cloud cover. 

“Temperatures did not change too much,” said Meola. “In Atlantic City, the temperature was 81 at 2:51. At 2:55, it was 79 degrees, but by 3 it was back to 81. But where there was a total eclipse, the temperatures dropped. At Newberry County Airport in South Carolina, the temperature was 93 at 1:15. By 2:55, it was 86.”   

Danielle Heller, a presenter at the Robert J. Novins Planetarium at Ocean County College in Toms River, said eight telescopes equipped with solar filters were set up outside for public viewing.

“People started arriving at 11,” she said. “They weren’t going to miss this. For a while it looked like we might get a cloud cover, but that didn’t happen and it stayed clear for the whole event.”

At Jakes Branch County Park in Beachwood, people could view the eclipse at the nature center’s five-story observation tower.

“It wasn’t a formal event,” said park supervisor Michelle Von Schmidt. “People had to bring their own solar glasses. About 100 people stopped by.”  

Mary Allen Realty, Ship Bottom, found out first-hand how much interest the eclipse was generating. A week before the event, the company announced it would give away free eclipse glasses.

“We had 500 and they were gone in a day and a half,” said Maggie O’Neill, sales associate. “We were also getting about 200 calls a day. I was off on Monday, so I got to see the eclipse. Even though it was a partial eclipse, it was still fun to see. The temperature seemed to drop for a few minutes at the peak time."

Randy Sinor, Mary Allen broker of record, said if he had known how quickly the glasses were going to run out, he would have ordered between 1,000 and 1,500.

“I paid $300 for 500 of them,” said Sinor. “The company I ordered from ran out of them, so I looked for some other places, and the prices really went up. Some companies had prices of $1,450 and $1,900 for 500 of them and on Saturday, they were costing $2,250 for 500 of them.”

He said people were inquiring about the glasses up to 1 p.m. Monday.

“When children came in, some of our associates donated their glasses to them,” he said. “I was at an Ocean County Board of Realtors meeting that day, but we took a break to watch the eclipse.”

The Ocean County Library System distributed the special glasses free of charge, and they, too, went quickly.

“We had about 250, and they were gone within two hours,” said Lexi Majeski, children’s librarian at the Barnegat Branch.

The branch held an eclipse-themed event that afternoon, serving astronomically-named snacks such as Moon Pies and Starburst candies.

“We did sidewalk chalk art where people could draw eclipse-related pictures,” said Majeski. “We had some solar glasses set aside for people who had registered for the program. We had around 70 people stop by.”

Eclipse-watchers won’t have to wait terribly long for the next one, which is scheduled for April 2024. Parts of the Southwest and Midwest are expected to experience totality, along with western areas of Pennsylvania and New York.

— Eric Englund

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