Eclipse Wows Beachgoers At Smith Point County Park In Shirley

SHIRLEY, NY — Hundreds of spectators flocked to Smith Point County Park on Monday to view the eclipse, a rare occurrence and for many a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Just before the partial eclipse began at 2:12 p.m., vehicles traveled in a caravan down William Floyd Parkway to the oceanfront park, then picked their best spots for viewing. They lined up in the parking lot against the bayside, some in Sport-Utility Vehicles with the hatches open, others in convertibles and classic cars, and some on the backs of motorcycles.

Others took to the boardwalk or the beach.

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Some even played ball as the spectacle unfolded overhead.

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But all had their eclipse glasses fitted with special filters allowing them to watch without harming their eyes.

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As the moon began to move across the sun in the rare astrological alignment, everything from shouts to whispers could be heard from the crowd.

Many local residents took advantage of the nearby beach’s open space and staked their claim for the duration.

Mastic resident Shania Rodriguez was only seven during the last eclipse in 2017.

“It was pretty interesting,” said Rodriguez, who watched with her mother and young siblings.

Shirley residents Monika Thayer and Paulette Davis visited with their husbands.

“It would have been nice if we had 100 percent,” Davis said. “It was nice to see all the people here.”

“We were really looking forward to seeing it,” Thayer added.

Other spectators came from farther away in the county.

Port Jefferson resident Ryan Kraker made the trip to Smith Point because he thought the viewing would be best on the South Shore.

“I absolutely loved it,” he said. “It was a great experience. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Likewise, Lynda Dunkley of Rocky Point, also made the trip down the parkway to Smith Point for a similar reason, and decided to meet up with her friend, Yvonne Vivar of Yaphank.

“I figured, you know, take a ride to the beach — it’s nice,” Vivar said. “I figured it was going to be a lot of people.”

“We thought it was going to be more crowded,” Dunkley added.

It was definitely an experience to remember though.

“We got to see like what looked like a little bit like a crescent,” Dunkley said. “We saw like a little bit of the eclipse when the moon shaded the sun. It was kind of neat.”

Smith Point was not the only park where spectators flocked.

Celebrations were held all across the island at libraries, as well as the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, and the Custer Institute in Southold. There was also an informal gathering of about 1,000 employees at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton.

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