New England stories from the region's top public media newsrooms
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Eclipse in Maine: Visitors from across the country, world travel to Maine to experience totality

Large crowds filled northern Maine today, as the 2024 total solar eclipse passed through the state. With clear skies across Maine today, totality was a memorable event for locals and visitors alike. Maine Public reporters were stationed across the state along the path of totality.

An up close view of totality in Houlton, Maine on April 8, 2024.
Brian Bechard
/
Maine Public
An up close view of totality in Houlton, Maine on April 8, 2024.

Houlton

On Monday, thousands gathered in Houlton, Maine, in the last town in the U.S. in the path of totality.

The eclipse was the culmination of a three day festival with craft fairs, concerts, even community meals to ensure there would be enough food to feed the influx into this community of 6,000.

A steady stream of spectators from both in and out of state arrived throughout the day Monday. Hundreds gathered in Market Square, where local radio station WHOU broadcasted live and counted down to totality.

Totality lasted three minutes and 18 seconds, but many, including Deb Leavitt of Minneapolis, Minnesota, said it was an unforgettable experience.

"I’m still feeling chills from it. It just felt like this has been around forever, way way way before us and it will be here way way after us. I don’t know, it just felt about life to me," Leavitt said.

Organizers said they were extremely pleased with the turnout for an event they spent more than two and a half years planning.

— Patty Wight, Maine Public at 5:00 p.m.

With clear skies in the forecast and three minutes and 18 seconds of totality, the town of Houlton hosted thousands of visitors for the total solar eclipse this afternoon. One of the couples in the crowd was Philip and Judith Clucas who live near a town called Houlton in the United Kingdom. Philip said while visiting their grandchildren in California last year they witnessed a partial eclipse which made a strong impression.

"I was fired up with that. In a previous life I was a science teacher so I love anything to do with space, the final frontier. And I looked at the next eclipse — I looked at the path of the next eclipse — and it went through Houlton in Maine and I thought, we've got to go! We've got to go," he said. "Not only that, it's the last eclipse that we'll possibly see in our lifetime."

Philip said the deal was sealed when their church reached out to the Church of the Good Shepherd in Houlton which welcomed their planned visit with open arms.

Houlton, England is named for Houlton, Maine because of the role the Maine town played as a relay station for the first transatlantic telephone call between London and New York in 1927. The couple said if they're alive and on the planet they plan to return to Houlton in 2027 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of that call.

— Susan Sharon, Maine Public at 9:00 a.m.

Organizers of eclipse activities in northern Maine said that cloudy weather throughout much of the U.S. meant more visitors arriving today.

Jane Torres is the executive director of the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce. She said that her organization has heard stories of eclipse chasers who have changed their plans and are now coming to Maine from areas such as Texas. Her group is anticipating tens of thousands of visitors.

"It means that those projections of 30 to 40,000 people, can really happen, and we are beginning to think it is going to happen," she said.

— Robbie Feinberg, Maine Public at 7:00 a.m.

Greenville

Downtown Greenville was bustling with visitors, setting up camera equipment and finding spots to sit and view the eclipse along the shores of Moosehead Lake. Travelers from all over the country and world have landed in this small Maine town.

Jiangnan Chen, who lives in Germany, and his friends Mengying Hu and Xin Li, who live in China, arrived in Greenville on Saturday. They originally all flew to Texas but changed course due to weather, and flew to Boston on April 6. The rented a car and drove to Jackman and continued to scope locations until they ended up in Greenville.

Jiangnan first met Xin watching their first total solar eclipse in their hometown of Yunan, China on July 22, 2009.

Suzette Sutton from decided to drive her van from Chelmsford, Massachusetts on Friday with her friend when the weather looked best for Maine. She was considering upstate New York, Vermont and New Hampshire before settling on Greenville. Suzette and her friend and their two dogs slept in her van in a parking lot downtown on Sunday April 7 in order to get a prime viewing spot on Monday.

Meanwhile, some visitors are a bit closer to home, like Gus Kryder and his son August. They drove up to Greenville this morning from Eliot, Maine. Kryder said it couldn’t be a more perfect day for him as a father, with plans working out so well to come here and experience this with his son in perfect weather.

— Esta Pratt-Kielley, Maine Public at 1:15 p.m.

Rangeley

Hundreds of skiers came out to Saddleback Mountain to enjoy some spring skiing and unencumbered views of the total solar eclipse.

Al Martini of Chesterville, Maine was there with his family. They watched the eclipse from the top of the ski mountain. He said it was unforgettable.

“I was surprisingly overwhelmed with the natural beauty of it. I kinda didn’t know what to expect but it was really something that was just a natural beauty that was unnatural in its gravity,” Martini said, sitting in the base lodge.

Others hiked even farther to the summit of the mountain above tree line, where they got a view of totality sweeping across the mountains, lakes, and forests of western Maine. In Rangeley, business owners say they welcomed the influx of visitors after a tough winter of little snow.

- Ari Snider, Maine Public at 5:30 p.m.

In Rangeley, some locals said a multiday eclipse festival has been both a boon to businesses trying to recover from a difficult winter and an opportunity to put the town on the map as a year-round destination for dark sky tourism.

The heavens could not have stepped up at a better time for the town, said Lisa Mejorado, with the Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce.

Mejorado said the lack of snow took a toll on snowmobiling and other winter recreation, sapping tourism dollars. The eclipse, she said, is a much-needed end of season boon.

— Ari Snider, Maine Public at 8:00 a.m.

Jackman

In Jackman, the clear weather persisted all the way through the eclipse.

The small community of 800 was projected to spend around 3.5 minutes in totality, the longest of any Maine town. That attracted thousands of people, including Ikenna Achilihu from St. Louis, and Rosaline Kanu from Philadelphia. The couple stayed the night in Albany and woke up today having no idea Maine would be their ultimate destination for the eclipse.

“We thought we were going to New Hampshire or Vermont, and then we found out about here so we came here, it’s exciting," said Kanu

“We’re eclipse chasers now," said Achilihu.

Achilihu and Kanu say they are going to drive the nine hours back to Philadelphia tonight. They’ll be one of the many eclipse chasers traveling that way to head home.

— Nick Song, Maine Public at 5:00 p.m.

Reporter Nicole Ogrysko was with a group of students and faculty from the University of Maine, which launched a high altitude balloon that livestreamed the eclipse.

The group left Orono at about 5:30 a.m. and found a sugarshack farm north of Jackman for the launch.

They attached cameras to the balloon, which can travel about 90,000 feet. UMaine junior, Noah Lambert says the goal is to capture the moon’s shadow as it moves across the earth.

"We need to time that up with the eclipse, because we would be at altitude looking at a video on the ground when the path of totality is coming through," he said.

And at about 1:45 p.m., the students, fighting the wind, carried the inflated balloon to an open field and let go.

— Nicole Ogrysko, Maine Public at 4:30 p.m.

Millinocket

Visitors filled downtown Millinocket on Monday. Many participated in the "Millinockeclipse," a race that happened during the eclipse.

Kate Ryan from Hope, Maine and said she will be running while viewing the eclipse in Millinocket.

“Everyone is incorporating their hobbies and interests and passions into this viewing event. It’s another great experience to feel the joy of running and sharing that with others in this magical experience that I’ve never seen and probably won’t see again in my lifetime. It’s part of for me being here now in the present and what greater way to do that than with fellow runners watching the solar eclipse. It’s otherworldly," Ryan said.

Milo

The small town of Milo in Piscataquis County wasn't promoted as a major eclipse destination like Houlton or Jackman. But it was an easy choice for Wayne Simmons and his 14-year-old son... named Milo.

"Looking at the map I saw Milo and I said, well this is obvious we have to go to Milo because we've never been to Milo and so off we headed, right after school today," Simmons said.

The pair made the drive from Ellsworth and joined a few hundred others gathered along the Sebec River. The town was on the southern edge of the totality zone, so the total eclipse only lasted about 90 seconds compared to nearly 3-and-a-half minutes in Houlton. But Milo Simmons said afterward that watching the eclipse in the town that shares his name was an experience that he'll remember.

"It was really beautiful and seeing it in totality and like the real thing was . . . amazing," he said.

— Kevin Miller, Maine Public at 6:45 p.m.

This story was originally published April 8, 2024 at 7:45 a.m. EDT.