RIT’s Eclipse Fest adds a higher education experience

Cloudy skies didn’t diminish the novelty of a once-in-a-lifetime event

Scott Hamilton/RIT

More than a thousand RIT students donned their tiger-themed certified solar eclipse viewing glasses during the total solar eclipse that occurred above cloudy skies in Western New York on Monday afternoon. The next such event to pass over Rochester is expected in 2144.

It was 1925 when the last total solar eclipse fell directly over Rochester. So RIT’s Division of Student Affairs and the College Activities Board had plenty of time to prepare a celebration for Monday’s rare celestial event.

Photo gallery

See a collection of eclipse photos from campus.

Thousands of students attended RIT Eclipse Fest, which featured a neon dance party, space-themed food, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, illuminated corn hole, and more for students inside the Gordon Field House and Activities Center and Hale-Andrews Student Life Center.

“I’m excited,” said Isabel Santiago, a second-year psychology major from New Bedford, Mass., who was first in line for the event so she could get a limited RIT Eclipse Fest shirt. “This will be the first time I’ve seen an eclipse, so I’m hoping that we see the sun.”

She joined friends eating ice cream and playing VR games and miniature golf in the Field House before heading outside around 3 p.m. to witness the pending totality.

The university encouraged professors to allow some flexibility with their students if classes were held during the eclipse. RIT also commissioned 20,000 tiger-themed certified solar eclipse viewing glasses to hand out so students, faculty, and staff could watch the eclipse safely.

The previous two days were cloudless. Even on Monday morning was sunny. But by noon, the area became overcast with clouds, completely obliterating the sun and moon.

As the gray skies grew darker, some clouds turned pink. Suddenly, it got very dark and the crowd instantly cheered. Many took photos with their phones. Flags were completely limp during the totality. After nearly 4 minutes of darkness, light emerged again.

“It was really cool. It felt like dark with some lights at first, like a sunset, then it started to get really darker and darker and then completely dark,” Santiago said. “It was really cool just being outside. I really loved it.”

“It was great. I just wish we could have seen the sun,” said Trent Jackson, a member of the men’s lacrosse team, who cut their practice short during the darkness.

Student Government President Darcie Jones called the experience “awesome” and after the event, chatted with her roommates about possibly traveling to Iceland for an upcoming eclipse there to hopefully view it in a clear sky.

“The thing that surprised us the most was how much the temperature dropped during the darkness,” she said.

Gabriella Fatigati, a fourth-year photographic sciences major from Orlando, Fla., probably wore the most creative outfit for eclipse gazing: she was dressed as a golden star.

“I’m going to wear it for the rest of the day,” she said.

Julian Turonis, a third-year illustration major from Carbondale, Pa., was filled with anticipation as darkness grew.

“One of the best parts about this is getting this shirt. And being able to experience totality with my friends,” he said.

Olivia Swanson, a second-year interior design major from Higganum, Conn., enjoyed playing games in the Field House before heading outside for totality.

“It was a little disappointing with the clouds, but I still had fun,” she said. “I was surprised how dark it got. It almost looked like night.”

Despite the sun’s no-show, Swanson didn’t rule out trying to witness another solar eclipse. “It’ll be depending what’s going on and where I’ll be the next time,” she said.

The next total solar eclipse to pass over Rochester is expected on Oct. 26, 2144.

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