We were up at 4 am and left the house at 4:30 am to get to Homestead National Monument of America in Beatrice by around 6:20 am.
That’s how dedicated we were to the solar eclipse on Monday.
It was a long day, but it was filled with wonder, excitement, and a whole lot of fun. Here’s a recap of everything we did yesterday. I only had my phone with me so pictures aren’t all the best quality, but it works for us.
Total Solar Eclipse at Homestead National Monument Recap
Even at 6:30 am the line for the bus to get to Homestead National Monument was long. We were excited and the lines were expected, that’s why we decided to get there so early. Everyone in line was in good spirits and the girls did what they do best, start up conversations with the people around us.
Finally, we made it to the bus and the girls had their very first bus ride.
A quick 4-mile drive and we arrived at our destination for the day. We were greeted by a huge line of port-a-potties, a hand washing station, then food trucks! Yum.
We completed the eclipse Jr Ranger booklet prior to attending, so our first stop was to have a ranger sign off on them and get our badges and patches. We immediately found friends to hang out with, and Charlie was thrilled it was her best friend from home!
There was a quick stroll through the booths to pick up some educational materials, and of course, the photo ops had to happen.
We were staring into the sun, so that explains the squints. Really we were excited to be there!
The crowds were already starting to build.
I was happy to find a place to sit under a tent to just take it all in. Much thanks to Jamie for having her husband save us seats! We were close to the stage and the jumbotron, so we had a good view of everything.
There was a lot going on to keep us entertained through the day while we waited for the big event.
On stage, we watched The String Beans, a local kids band, and Ready Jet Go from PBS was there to keep the energy up.
The girls, as always, got involved in the show. They both had an opportunity to help the String Beans out with songs, and they were both up on stage with Ready Jet Go. The early morning was starting to get to me, so I was grateful for the entertainment for the kids. They loved it!
After the show, we took headed to the other side of the homestead where there were other activities and crafts.
On our walk over we took note of the rain clouds coming in. It was about an hour before first contact and my heart sank. You can even see the rain in the distance.
We continued on our way and found SciJoy. I hadn’t heard of this group before, but you can be sure we’ll be following them on YouTube from now on!
They were setting up a high-altitude balloon (weather balloon) to rise above the clouds with a 360 camera attached to record the eclipse from the highest parts of our atmosphere. The girls were asking a lot of questions because it just looked cool, and the answers to their questions caught their interest even more.
While they were getting ready we decided to check out the craft tent. With a bit of help, the girls made some corn husk dolls.
Finally, we made it back to SciJoy for the weather balloon launch. They were filling the balloon with helium and had a group of volunteers help keep the balloon where they wanted it to avoid damaging it. There was a ranger close by answering the girl’s questions about the process.
They were almost ready to launch when a huge gust of wind caught the balloon and pulled it away. We watched it float away into the sky with disappointment, but the SciJoy crew didn’t show any signs of defeat. A new balloon was immediately retrieved and set up to fill this balloon started. They handled the situation amazingly. I was highly impressed with the crew.
We decided to head back to the tent at this point because we didn’t want to miss out on the rest of the festivities.
When we arrived we could hear Bill Nye on stage. He was on a Q&A panel but had to leave shortly after we got there to do a TV spot for ABC.
The kids took this time to grab some more educational materials that were placed out near the stage. For this homeschooling mom that was a score! NASA and the Planetary Society had some fantastic materials to share with us.
Finally, the time had arrived! The clouds were starting to part and from stage, we were directed to look up at the sky. Solar eclipse glasses on, of course. We could see a partial eclipse! It was such a cool sight!
We did get to see the live feed on the jumbotron from the weather balloon SciJoy sent up. This was early on in its journey but later we did get to see the feed from the highest parts of our atmosphere.
We spent some time alternating between listening to the presentations on stage and watching the eclipse whenever the clouds shifted enough for us to see.
Then it was one o’clock. Time to get ready for the totality! The sky was already starting to get darker. Bill Nye was on stage with Amy Mainzer leading us through the eclipse stages.
The crowd was cheering, excitement was in the air, the build up to this moment was phenomenal.
We all put glasses on and stared at the sky watching as the moon took its place over the sun. The sky was amazing.
Here’s what it looked like before totality.
And during totality.
During totality is the only time it’s safe to view a solar eclipse without the special solar glasses. Everyone was staring at the sky in total amazement. Some people were quiet, taking it all in some people were crying a bit, others were sharing the experience with others around them.
I did my best to take a picture of the totality, but my cell phone isn’t designed for low light or the distance to grab a clear up close shot. There were a ton of photographers and astronomers on site, so I know there are a ton of great pictures of the eclipse floating around out there from our location.
Once totality was over a lot of people left. It was during this time that I realized just how many people had attended the eclipse at this location. We’d been so cozy in our little corner of the site I hadn’t noticed how big the crowd had grown.
Our first stop after totality was the long lines of the bathrooms. Then we decided to do a little artwork at the NASA tent.
Lena made the moon.
Charlie opted for the sun’s corona.
It was time to head home. With everyone leaving the site at the same time, the buses couldn’t keep up. We were in line for a bus back to the car for 3 hours! I’m beyond proud of the kids. They were hot, hungry, thirsty, and their feet hurt, but they made it through the wait like champs.
Overall the event went swimmingly. It was cool with the rain and clouds, we were still able to see the eclipse despite the cloud cover, and Bill Nye gave us a lot of cool science info during totality. We were entertained by the activities and stage shows, talked to a lot of really interesting people and came home with a ton of great information and crafts.
I give this event high marks. Sharing this spectacular experience with my kids and seeing their excitement and amazement in their reactions was priceless. I’m so glad we went!
Did you watch the eclipse? What was your experience like?