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From Guardians opener to Portage Lakes, Northeast Ohio celebrates total solar eclipse

A couple front and center in a sea of people on a lawn looking up at the sky.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
People watch the total solar eclipse in awe from outside the Great Lakes Science Center.

Downtown Cleveland was especially busy Monday afternoon — and not just because it was the Guardians' opening day.

A solar eclipse — the path of totality of which fell directly upon Cleveland and the surrounding areas — passed through around 3:13 p.m., leaving Northeast Ohioans in four minutes of darkness.

"It was an incredible experience. I’ve never seen anything like it before," said Bill Voit, an usher at Progressive Field who erupted with cheers of joy during peak totality. "Just the whole idea — all of a sudden the sun’s gone, and it was as dark this afternoon as it was at 10 o’clock last night. It’s just an incredible experience."

Cleveland officials estimated hundreds of thousands of visitors came to the city, including those here for opening day and the eclipse, and also basketball fans who attended the NCAA Women's Final Four over the weekend and film buffs catching movies at the Cleveland International Film Festival. Downtown parking ran anywhere from $60 to $80.

With many school districts including Cleveland Metropolitan School District closed Monday, it gave kids like six-year-old Claire and nine-year-old Chase a chance to view the once-in-a-lifetime celestial event from the Progressive Field. Parents Molly and Mike Gusler of Kent have been to 17 opening days, but they said this year was special.

"This was the first time we brought our kids for opening day, and it was very memorable," Molly Gusler said. "We could see that it was getting darker and a little cooler, and then obviously the total eclipse. It got very dark. So it was fun to talk with them and experience it with them for sure."

Some journeyed far: Sheila Pinckney and her husband drove from Jacksonville, Florida to attend the game with her family that lives locally.

"Opening day is always special, but even more so today with the eclipse," said Arthur Givens, a season ticketholder and Pinckney's brother-in-law.

But not everyone traveled for recreation: Vernon Petty of Oxford, Maine, came to sell merchandise like t-shirts, hats, buttons and stickers commemorating the event near Progressive Field.

"The Final Four was happening here and opening day was happening for the Guardians, so we knew there would be a lot of people here," Petty said.

Eclipse celebrations from the Great Lakes Science Center to Portage Lakes

Across the region, businesses, restaurants and more geared up for eclipse celebrations.

Several Cleveland museums, including the Great Lakes Science Center, Museum of Natural History and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame hosted watch parties and educational programs.

"Have you ever been in a total eclipse? Once you experience one, you can't wait to do your next," said Ken Jacobs, who traveled from Michigan to the science center. He saw his first eclipse in Nashville with his wife seven years ago. "Literally for most people, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the difference between 99% and 100% is literally day and night."

Another popular viewing spot was Wade Oval on Cleveland's East Side.

"I had such a great time. Seeing that totality was amazing," said Phylindia Gant, who drove up from Gainesville, Florida. She’s getting her doctorate in geology and is passionate about science. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime event because Cleveland's not going to have another total eclipse for 400 years, so I'm so glad that I got to see it this time."

At Portage Lakes State Park in Summit County, eclipse chasers like Jacobs and newbies alike set up chairs and celebrated. Pittsburgh native Tom Batty visited the park to commemorate his third eclipse. Meanwhile, Kevin Fisher of Detroit and Susan Homes of Madison Heights, Michigan, set up a picnic at the park which they picked for less dense crowds and traffic.

At Avon Lake High School, hundreds gathered in the football field's stadium.

Boshy Deak popped over from Westlake to view the eclipse in a community setting.

"Memorial Stadium — can't beat that view from here," Deak said.

Abbey Marshall covers Cleveland-area government and politics for Ideastream Public Media.