Eclipse creates community at Wheeler Farm: 'We're all experiencing something really special'

(Brennan Smith | The Salt Lake Tribune) A large crowd gathered to watch the eclipse at Wheeler Historic Farm on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.

Murray • They came for the eclipse — but they really loved staying for the instant community it created at Wheeler Historic Farm. 

Watchers shared safety glasses, telescopes, other viewing devices and a sense of fun as the moon slowly covered 91 percent of the sun in the Salt Lake Valley during the Great American Eclipse Monday. 

“It was more the environment of seeing people enjoy it,” Salt Lake City’s Robert Richmond said. “Those that had never seen it, when they looked through the camera and got a decent view of it — that’s probably more spectacular than the emotion of actually seeing it.” 

Julio Lachaga brought his $1,200 telescope rig to the park to catch a view of the sun’s spots and the sun’s crescent shape as the eclipse reached optimum viewing. He said “40 or 50” kids stopped by to view the eclipse through his telescope, a rewarding experience for the astronomy enthusiast. 

“To see the kids be able to look at it and see something they may never see again, is just awesome,” he said. 

Denise Papanikolas expressed some regret at not driving to Idaho, but said the view from Wheeler Historic Park “doesn’t let you down.” 

“Everyone, everywhere is looking at the same thing,” Papanikolas said. “It’s pretty cool that we’re all experiencing something really special.”

Sandy’s Gail Coleman missed out on buying safety glasses, but built her own viewing box to catch a glimpse of the natural phenomenon. 

“We live in such a great place where there’s a 91 percent eclipse so I thought that I just really can’t miss it,” Coleman said. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.” 

Mary Walker flew two and half hours from Tucson, Ariz., to catch a better view of the eclipse with a group of friends. 

“Even though this is not the 100 percent, it’s better than what we had at home,” Walker said. “To experience it outdoors, all the changes that go on with the lighting and the shadows was very, very interesting.” 

Patricia White’s husband left Draper at 3 a.m. to drive to Shoshoni, Wyo., to be closer to the path of totality, but she skipped out on the road trip. 

Instead, she made a viewing box with “an icepick and some tinfoil” and drove up to the park to take in the eclipse. “This is quite an event,” she said. 

Salt Lake City’s Richard Rosenberg said the eclipse left a lasting impression.

“Everything that happens in your life, it’s always nice to say: ‘I was there when this happened or that happened,’ especially something positive like this,” he said. “At least now I have a memory for the rest of my life to say: ‘I remember the eclipse of 2017.’”