Breitbeck Park filled with spectators for total solar eclipse

OSWEGO, N.Y. – Hours before the moon began to overtake the sun, Breitbeck Park was already buzzing with activity. Lawn chairs and picnic blankets were dotted all over the park sprawling far and wide across the grass. Bubbles floated by as dogs barked and children ran about past various camera and telescope setups.

For some it was their first time attempting to capture an eclipse, and others were a little more seasoned.

Ken Briggs and Rosemary Hurd came up from Syracuse to watch the eclipse with their dog Lincoln, a beagle mix, in tow. While setting up, they met Steve Moss, a fellow eclipse fan who had traveled solo up from Albany. 

“We saw him sitting by himself and said, come join us,” Hurd said.

Moss had a special pair of binoculars from a Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) expo in Suffern which allowed the holder to view the sun directly.

“My dad had been bringing me to the local astronomy club since I was eight,” Moss said. He remembered other club members traveling as far as Egypt to chase eclipses. 

Briggs said he brought a Canon T61 telescope equipped with a two-times teleconverter, which “brings you twice as close in.” 

friends at the park
Clockwise from left: Steve Moss, Rosemary Hurd, Lincoln the dog, and Ken Briggs enjoy Breitbeck Park a couple hours before totality. Photo by: Lauren Royce

Sean and Tracey Mcsherry came from Holliston, Massachusetts with their two young daughters and their dog Reihle to view the eclipse after deciding back in December they wanted to go. 

“Our daughter did a unit on space in her class, so she told us that she wanted to go see the eclipse,” Tracey Mcsherry said. “Anything that gets them interested in science.”

The Mcsherrys saw part of the 2017 eclipse in Maine, while on a camping trip. This was their first time seeing a total solar eclipse.

Out of all the places in the path of totality, the Mcsherry family chose to come to Oswego because it was both a reasonable distance and the most cost-effective option.

“That was part of it, and then we were searching for hotels along the path and they were a little more reasonable in Syracuse, and then we figured we could just drive up here and catch more of the totality,” Sean Mcsherry said. 

They booked their hotel in Syracuse back in January. “We knew that we needed to move, and we got our glasses in December,” Tracey McSherry said.

Sean Mcsherry had a telescope set up with a Pringles can covering the viewfinder acting as a sun-finder, save for a pinhole in the tape on the end facing the sky. Lenses were covered with the appropriate filters to protect them from the sun.

“Put a hole in it, and the wax paper underneath the lid, that projects onto the center when the sun is shining,” Sean Mcsherry said of his handiwork. 

a family at the park
Sean and Tracey Mcsherry were eclipse-ready with their telescope. Photo by: Lauren Royce

Alf Corrigan and his dad Bill Corrigan traveled from Montgomery, leaving home at around 5 a.m. to beat the crowds to Breitbeck. They too had some homemade eclipse viewing technology.

“MacGyvered an Amazon equatorial mount to an Amazon telescopic lens to a 15-year-old DSLR,” Alf Corrigan said. “It works.” 

Homemade lenses were attached to a pair of binoculars as well, using eclipse glasses for the material.

Bill Corrigan said his daughter used to play for SUNY Cortland’s softball team against Oswego, so he already was familiar with the area of Breitbeck Park. While their original plan was to travel to Buffalo, Oswego was closer and more centered in the totality path.

eclipse fans
Bill Corrigan and his son Alf are both eclipse enthusiasts who chose Oswego for its centered location on the totality path. Photo by: Lauren Royce

“I said, ‘It’ll be a great view, so why don’t we go there?’” Bill Corrigan said.

Bill and Alf Corrigan were in Colombia, South Carolina for the 2017 eclipse, and saw “about ten seconds’ worth” of totality before a cloud moved in front of it. 

Cam’s Pizza, Garafolo’s and Ji-Woo’s Korean Soul Food trucks were camped near the stage where In The Flesh, a Pink Floyd cover band, were set up to play. Shortly before totality began, they played “Learning To Fly” and after the moon slowly shifted back out of the sun’s way, they played “Dark Side of the Moon.”

While clouds blocked the view of the sun for most of the time, the sun and moon peeked out from the clouds very briefly, bringing cheers from the audience. Temperatures immediately dropped as the eclipse began around 2:08 and as the sky darkened, many agreed the drop had to have been at least 20 degrees.