RIDGEFIELD, Conn. — Crowds came to Ballard Park for the eclipse, but they stayed to play.
There was a very long line on Monday winding around the park and down the sidewalk as the Ridgefield Library handed out free solar glasses that made for safe viewing of the eclipse, the first in the U.S. in four decades.
They handed out 500 pairs, but even more people poured into the park for the viewing party. The crowd included lots of teens and young kids— the playground was jammed.
By the time the main event arrived, many in the crowd seemed to have forgotten why they had gone to Ballard Park.
Kids were zooming around, tossing footballs, throwing frisbees and playing run and scream. (Maybe they took to heart the order: "Don't look at the eclipse!").
Mostly adults — and a few teens — used the protective eyewear to view the eclipse as the moon began to blot out the sun just before 1:30 p.m. Those without glasses were able to borrow from nearby friends and strangers, as the sought-after eyewear ws passed around.
Some thin cloud cover made for intermittent viewing of the height of the eclipse, which came at about 2:45 p.m. But many exclaimed at the bright orange crescent of the sun that was visible through the protective lenses.
And though the crowd was estimated at nearly 1,500, only a few hundred craned their necks and get their eyes on the sky.
"Cool" and "pretty" and "it's mine turn" were the most commonly heard remarks. One man dodged a running kid and said, "I would have had a better view at home — no trees."
And it wasn’t even a total eclipse: The moon covered about two-thirds of the sun over Fairfield County.
Many were already making plans for the next eclipse in seven years. "It would be cool to see a total eclipse," said one teen.
Large crowds also gathered at Westport’s Rollick Observatory, with 500 to 600 people joining the Westport Astronomical Society in getting a peek through the permanent telescope.
The scene was similar in Bridgeport, where the Discovery Museum was passing out free eclipse glasses with each paid admission. Budding scientists could view the spectacle from the Adventure Park, though not while actually zip-lining.
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