On the morning of the Great American Eclipse, farmer Casey Rush opened his family’s two-runway airfield a mile west of Troy, Kan., to dozens of visitors from as far as Texas, California, Massachusetts and Canada.
They paid $10 per car to park on a grassy lawn with uninterrupted views of cornfields stretching for miles in all directions.
“We wanted to avoid the crowds of St. Joe,” said Chris Nedbalek of Olathe, who drove to Troy with family members from Oklahoma.
Two hours before the moon blotted out the sun, the 13-member Nedbalek family posed for a photo in their eclipse glasses, their smiling faces tilted up to the cloudy sky.
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Nearby, Mike Vanderhoff of Austin, Texas, peered into the lens of his nearly 6-foot-tall Meade Starfinder telescope. The amateur stargazer drove 12 hours with his brother-in-law and nephew to get to Troy.
“It was either here or Hiawatha,” Vanderhoff said as he peered through his telescope and watched the dark curve of the moon drift over an edge of the late summer sun.
“You can actually see it moving!” exclaimed 9-year-old Chloe Hannings of Lawrence as she gazed up through her eclipse glasses. Suddenly, gray skies blotted her view.
“A cloud over the moon?” Chloe said. “Oh, come on.”
Sprinkles gave way to full-on rain, and the stargazers took shelter under tents, umbrellas and ponchos. Sharon Dewey of Lawrence sat in her family’s Subaru.
“At least it will be cool to see the sky go dark,” she told her husband, Jerry deNoyelles.
Minutes before totality, the rain stopped and the clouds parted. A group of students from Prairie Moon Waldorf School in Lawrence shrieked with delight as the moon blotted out the sun. The temperature dropped, crickets chirped in the cornfields and the sky went dark except for a ring of rosy gold just above the horizon.
Fireworks popped and sparkled to the east before the sun reemerged above endless rows of corn.
Amani Bouhouch, 11, stood apart from the other students, marveling at the strange dawn.
“That was absolutely magnificent,” she said.