Darkness wows dozens at parish’s Total Eclipse Tailgate Party - Catholic Courier
Two women wearing eclipse-viewing glasses.

Corinthia Sims and Mary Harper wait in their car for the totality of the eclipse at Henrietta’s Guardian Angels Church April 8. (Courier photo by Jeff Witherow)

Darkness wows dozens at parish’s Total Eclipse Tailgate Party

St. Marianne Cope parishioners recently gathered with their neighbors to watch the sun and the moon line up with the earth during a total solar eclipse.

The Henrietta parish hosted a Solar Eclipse Tailgate Party April 8 in the parking lot of Guardian Angels Church on East Henrietta Road. Although many of the 80 to 100 people in attendance were parishioners, residents from a nearby apartment complex also joined the festivities, according to Jere Rentzel, deputy grand knight for the Knights of Columbus Council 4812, which sponsored the event.

“That was a large part of what our goal was for this event, to have more people from the parish interacting together and invite our neighbors to join us so they feel more comfortable at St. Marianne Cope,” Rentzel said.

Tailgate party encourages unity, involvement

The tailgate party also provided a way for St. Marianne Cope parishioners to get to know each other better, Rentzel said. The parish was formed in 2012 when Henrietta’s Guardian Angels and Good Shepherd parishes joined with St. Joseph Parish in Rush. Guardian Angels is the parish’s only worship site, as Good Shepherd closed in 2019 and St. Joseph closed earlier this year.

Organizers of the tailgate party hoped it would encourage more parishioners to interact with each other and become more involved in the parish, Rentzel said.

“I would say that it was a success, and we’ll just continue working on it,” he said.

Parish provided eclipse-viewing glasses, games, food and drinks

The Knights began planning for the tailgate party about six months ago, envisioning an event where they could provide people with a safe place from which to view the total solar eclipse as well as free eclipse-viewing glasses and beverages. As the day of the eclipse drew nearer, the event gradually developed into a full-fledged tailgate party, complete with hot dogs, games and prizes, as well as free coffee, tea and hot cocoa.

“The Knights got volunteers from the parish to help work the food stand and just give us a hand, and the parish (provided) tents. We had a tent for food, a tent for games, a tent for drinks,” Rentzel said.

Fellow Knight Robert R. Caulkins manned the beverage tent and arrived at St. Marianne Cope at 11 a.m. to start making pots of coffee and heating up the water for tea and hot cocoa. By the time the party began at 2 p.m., he was ready to handle the 300 people the Knights expected, but overcast skies kept many people away, he said.

Those who did come out for the party had a good time, he said, noting that many people brought chairs and gathered in small groups around their vehicles or near the tents set up in the parking lot.

“There was a lot of interaction between the people who were participating. It was a good sight to see,” Rentzel said.

Overcast skies hid the sun but didn’t hold back the darkness

The sun never peeked through the clouds, so the eclipse-viewing glasses the Knights provided free of charge in Caulkins’ beverage tent were not necessary, and neither was the air horn Rentzel had planned to use to designate the moment of totality, when the moon completely blocked the sun’s rays.

“I had this whole script all put together. I had an air horn, and I was going to give it a blast when they could take their glasses off during the total darkness, and then blow two blasts when it was time to put them back on again,” Rentzel remarked.

Although the clouds did prevent people from getting a look at the sun, they did not stop the skies from darkening significantly during the time of totality, he added.

“Everybody was surprised at how dark it got,” he said. “The thing that was interesting was it just seemed like it was dark right over us, but if you looked east and west the skies weren’t as dark on the horizon. It was definitely dark right where we were.”

When darkness fell, the lights in the parking lot and in the yards of nearby houses came on, said Caulkins, who with his son and grandson sought out a darker spot near St. Marianne Cope’s rectory.

“We appreciated the darkness, and then all the sudden, it started to turn to daylight again,” he recalled. “It didn’t last too long, but we appreciated what we had. I think it was a really neat event that we’ll remember for a long time.”

Tags: 2024 Eclipse, Monroe County East
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