Eclipse experience brings viewers to Lebanon from around world

Travelers from near and far gathered at Bob Smith Memorial Park in Lebanon Aug. 21 to view and photograph the total solar eclipse.

Of course, they weren’t the only ones finding open space to view the solar phenomenon. People lined the country roads next to harvested fields and filled freeway rest stops. Some

stayed at Cheadle Lake Park, where an organized camping event took place.

At Smith Park, Laura and Patrick Schuh and their daughter Stephanie Keyes walked from their apartment, across the street. Other area families did the same.

“We win closest,” Keyes joked.

The award for farthest might go to a group of four people who traveled from Hong Kong for the event, though some of their friends live significantly closer. They are part of AstroLink, a Hong Kong-based astronomy group that hosts academic and public-education activities.

They ended up in Lebanon, at Smith Park, to view the eclipse.

Huey Pang and his wife Lydia Lung are part of AstroLink’s photography team.

Pang said he has been interested in astronomy for more than 25 years.

“There are no observatories in Hong Kong,” he said. “The air and light pollution make observing the night sky difficult.”

Their group takes one or two trips a year and they made the most of this one.

After the solar eclipse they headed to Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories in Canada, to watch the aurora borealis.

One of Pang’s students, Peggy Tao, who used to live in Hong Kong, came from Vancouver, B.C.

Aug. 21 was the first time Tao had viewed an eclipse. That date also was her 41st wedding anniversary, she said. Her husband Eddie couldn’t make the trip, he had to work, but she called him from the field in Lebanon as she was setting up her camera equipment.

Others drove to Lebanon from Northern California to meet with their friends from Hong Kong. “Colleen (Shum) is a friend of mine, she used to live in Hong Kong and both Colleen and Lydia attended the same high school in Hong Kong,” Pang said. “Colleen has lived in San Francisco for a couple of years and we haven’t seen each other for a while until the eclipse day! So you may say that most of us originated from Hong Kong but we traveled to Lebanon from three different places.”

People spread out in different areas of the park, some with lawn chairs, some with cameras, everyone with eclipse safety glasses.

Laura Schuh joked that she survived the last local solar eclipse, in 1979.

At that time, the public service announcements were not as widely broadcast as they were for the 2017 eclipse.

Schuh recalled that her mother kept her inside the house until it was dark.

“When it got dark, my mom finally let me outside,” Schuh said.

Tadd and Becky Gestrin drove with their son and daughter to Lebanon from Happy Valley to view the eclipse with family.

As the eclipse neared second contact, viewers felt the temperature drop.

Becky Gestrin noticed something else when she looked up at the sun through her eclipse glasses: “It looks like the Cheshire cat! You know, that part where you only see his smile.”
Her family laughed. Everyone else in the park was mesmerized by the sight that was approaching too.

When total eclipse occurred, “ooohs and ahhhs” and cheers could be heard throughout the area.

Lung called out camera settings for members of the group from Hong Kong.

She was grinning ear to ear.

“I can’t believe it,” Lung said afterward. “I saw it once in my lifetime. I feel privileged.”