In an unexpected move by Mother Nature, Maine had baby blue, nearly cloudless skies Monday – among the best weather in the country to watch the total solar eclipse.

The moon covered the sun for several minutes starting at about 3:30 p.m. Its traverse across the sun began at about 2:20 and ended at about 4:20 p.m.

The chances of pristine weather during the rainy April season were slim. And experts predicted Maine would receive fewer visitors chasing the eclipse than other states where the weather is typically sunnier. But locals, tourists and chasers of celestial events who took a risk on Maine enjoyed the payoff.

As the moon came closer to covering the sun and the sky began to dim, the town of Rangeley was buzzing with excitement, with crowds gathering in parks and lookout points that are usually far less populated in the off-season.

“When I learned the next eclipse was going to go through Maine, I thought ‘how exciting is that?’ And then I saw April and thought ‘yuck, good luck, with mud season, snow in the woods, cloudy skies,’ ” Rob Burgess, president of the Southern Maine Astronomers, said while setting up a pair of perched binoculars at Rangeley Town Cove Park. “After the ice storm, the snow storm, the power outages – to have a day like this is glorious, so special.”

A large crowd gathered at Cove Park began cheering and putting on the glasses that make it safe to stare at the sun as the partial eclipse became visible around 2:22 p.m. The sky gradually darkened as the moon crossed paths with the sun, casting a red hue.


Many groups of people at the park occasionally looked up to check on the moon’s progress.

The Coughlins, a family of seven, couldn’t take their eyes off the sky. Sean and Erin Coughlin homeschool their five children, spanning from 6 to 18 years old. And Monday provided a field trip that will be difficult to top.

“It’s once in a lifetime!” 6-year-old Finola Coughlin cheered.

Despite the ample school lessons, Sean and Erin Coughlin had to keep reminding their children the most important safety tip of the day: Don’t stare at the sun without protective glasses.

The Cove Park crowd roared as the moon fully covered the sun, shedding their glasses and staring into the sky for Rangeley’s 2 minutes and 25 seconds of totality.

After the initial hoots of excitement, the crowd went quiet, entranced by the corona, a ring of bright light peeking out from behind the blackened moon.


It was over all too soon. As the sky rapidly brightened, some cheered, some groaned and some booed – sad that the event many said they’d see only once in their lives was over. The crowd quickly flushed out, heading to their cars to sit in nearly an hour of traffic on Main Street.


Hours earlier, at 9:30 a.m., some 30 people had marked their territory with camping chairs and telescopes at Whip Willow Farm Scenic Overlook, a premier eclipse viewing destination just outside of downtown Rangeley.

Massachusetts-residents Mitch Heydt and Sachin Sawe set up camp outside there at 4:30 a.m. While a crowd was growing at the small overlook parking lot midmorning, the pair was relishing their success at scoring a spot at one of the best viewing locations in town.

“Beating everyone to the punch in the perfect spot as the first people here was the best feeling,” said Heydt, who traveled four hours from Stow, Massachusetts. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You cannot have anything come between you and capturing the shot.”

The town is one of many in Maine that became a popular destination for the astronomical event, finding itself in the middle of the path of totality that stretched from Texas through Ohio, across the Great Lakes and into western Maine.


To hold ownership over their spot among a line of photographers and astronomers lined against the stone wall of the overlook, Sawe and Heydt came with food, shovels, chairs and a portable toilet.

After taking in the sprawling views of Rangeley Lake and the western Maine mountains, the amateur nature photographers started to get their bearings. They were quickly busy setting up their $22,000 worth of gear to photograph the eclipse. That includes four cameras and their covered star tracker, a piece of photography equipment that locked onto the sun and followed it along it’s path.

“This is a dry run because once it starts we can’t afford to mess up,” Sawe said. “But during totality, we are not going to be bogged down. We can just enjoy the moment without glasses.”

Charlie Sawyer, 63, is president of the Downeast Amateur Astronomy Club. He said he drove three hours from his home in Pembroke to set up his Schmidt-Cassagrain compound reflector telescope in Millinocket’s town square.

The telescope had a solar filter attached to protect viewers’ eyes, and was tracking the path of the sun. Curious onlookers would occasionally step up to the telescope to take a peek at the sun through the eyepiece.

Sawyer also had added an extra filter to the telescope, made out of a cardboard box, so viewers could watch the eclipse safely.


He said he remembers his first total eclipse in 1963, when he was just 2 years old.

“I couldn’t go outside to watch it,” he said. “My mother wouldn’t let me. She didn’t want me to look at the sun. So this is an important one for me.

Houlton McGuinn and Sarah Bradley of San Francisco, Calif., watch the total eclipse on Monday in Houlton. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“Eclipses happen every month somewhere, but to have it in the same state (where you are), they’re very rare. I remember the one in ‘63, I was so small I could stand at the window and lean my arms on the windowsill. So this one, it means a lot to come and see it.”


Maine had a 60% chance of rain and cloud coverage, experts were forecasting months in advance.

But in the path of totality from Dover-Foxcroft to Caribou and from Jackman across to Houlton, skies were bright – until they weren’t for those few minutes across the state. Most other areas falling in the path of totality were under cloud coverage. That included Texas and Mexico, which experts believed were the safest bets for eclipse chasers.


The Franklin County Emergency Management agency had anticipated that around 20,000 people would descend on trails, streets and parks in the Rangeley Lakes Region.

In January, eclipse event organizers in Aroostook County were estimating around 40,000 would visit Houlton and surrounding areas.

The Great American Eclipse, a research publication, had estimated around 7,000 to 27,000 people would visit the entire state to take in the celestial event. Other experts were similarly expecting a lower count of visitors than other states in the line of totality because of April weather patterns.

Maine’s weather on Monday might change that narrative.



It’s too soon for official figures in Rangeley – with traffic counters still working on Monday evening. At Cove Park alone, Fire Chief Mike Bacon estimated around 3,000 people had gathered at Cove Park alone, and suspected “tens of thousands” paid a visit to the Rangeley Lakes Region.

Officials in Jackman said they thought about 10,000 people had traveled to northern Somerset County for the event.

Northbound traffic reported in York County increased steadily Monday morning, to a peak of 1,851 vehicles at 10 a.m., up about 41% from the second Monday in April last year, according to the Maine Turnpike Authority. Traffic was greater than on Labor Day last year when 1,734 vehicles were counted, the agency said.

In Presque Isle, Hub Coffee on Main Street was “off the rails busy,” said general manager David Rowe.

Nick Benimoff, center, of Long Island, New York, is flanked by son Maxwell and wife Elizabeth as they watch the eclipse from River Front Park in Houlton on Monday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Nearly three dozen people were packed in the cafe at 8:30 a.m., forming a line to the back edge of the building. Rowe said the baristas had served 111 coffees since the shop opened at 6 a.m.

“It took a little bit to get going, but it’s like a freight train, it’s been so busy,” Rowe said.


Seven people were working, instead of the usual three, to accommodate demand, he said.

Outside the shop, signs pointed to various “Star Parks” where visitors could gather to take in the eclipse. Rowe said he has felt Presque Isle – rural Aroostook County’s largest city – swell with travelers over the last week.

“It’s so fun,” Rowe said. “We have seen, even toward the middle part of last week, tons of people coming in from away. It’s been really fun to meet them.”

A nearby cannabis shop on Main Street was advertising a sale that would last from 2:30 to 4:20 p.m., roughly when the partial eclipse would be visible from Presque Isle. Other stores had flyers posted on their doors: “Closing early for the Solar Eclipse” at 2 p.m.


Cars began arriving and filling up all the available parking spaces in downtown Millinocket by 9:30 a.m. In the town square, music blared from loudspeakers and visitors spread blankets and camp chairs, settling in for an hours-long wait for those magical three minutes of totality.


At the very southern edge of the path of totality in Solon, about 100 campers and amateur astronomers gathered atop Robbins Hill.

Many had set up picnic tables, folding chairs and grills as they waited for totality. Some said this is the second or third eclipse they have seen. Others, like Dave Lindh of York, said this is their first – and likely only – chance to see the event.

“My new thing is to try something new all the time, so I’m still literally figuring out how to work this telescope right now,” he said, laughing. “I’m trying to do things outside my comfort zone. Live life to the fullest. This eclipse is the perfect chance to do both.”


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Totality was greeted with hoots and hollers in Solon.

One of the most enthusiastic of the crowd was Gloria Gilley. This year was the second time the 83-year-old South China resident had traveled to see an eclipse, but the first time she would actually get to see it.

“I went to South Carolina a few years back when they had totality, and of course, it was cloudy and overcast the whole time,” she said. “Now it’s in my backyard with clear skies. Who can complain?”



Many saw the total solar eclipse as a unifying moment – a time for celebration, forging friendships and thinking deeply about our small place in the universe.

Burgess, the Southern Maine Astronomy president, said his passion for astronomy is in part sparked by the perspective it brings him.

“I think after you see one of these eclipses, you may fret less when choosing off-white or eggshell paint for your bathroom,” Burgess said. “What’s important about dark skies and astronomy is the humility that one experiences when you look at these majestic objects, be they even the moon or some distant nebula galaxy, to just give us a sense of perspective on our own situation. I think that’s good for the soul and good for the psyche.”

And Geoff James, a Camden resident watching the eclipse with family, said it’s an experience that can bring many people together.

“This is a wonder everyone can share in this divided country,” he said.


Bridget Denzer, a Sanford resident, was at Cove Park celebrating her 40th birthday.

Her friends had planned a big birthday bash. The party of nine was wearing homemade moon and sun headbands and a variety of 2024 eclipse themed T-shirts. Denzer’s was a tribute to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler.

It’s one of many themed birthday parties the crew holds, party planner Melissa Charyk said.

Charyk, visiting from Sharon, Vermont, said she wanted to go to a communal space for the crowd reaction.

“I wanted that moment of everyone experiencing something amazing at the same time,” she said.

Denzer wasn’t focused on the symbolism of the eclipse falling in the same week as her birthday, which is on Friday. It was a cool coincidence and a fun way to mark the significant birthday.

But Denzer was shocked by how she felt during those precious moments of totality. As the sun disappeared and the corona took its place, Denzer shed tears. And in the darkness, she made a birthday wish.

Business Editor Meg Robbins, Digital Editor Katherine Lee, Staff Writer Stephen Singer and Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Dylan Tusinski contributed to this report. 

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