Parks and rec to host solar eclipse viewing party

Published 7:17 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2017

For the first time in 99 years, the United States will witness a total eclipse of the sun from coast to coast, and in Washington, they’ll be celebrating the event.

The Washington Parks and Recreation Department is hosting a solar eclipse viewing party at Festival Park on Aug. 21 from 1:30 p.m. until 4 p.m. The eclipse will begin around 1 p.m., with its peak, or near-total eclipse, coming at 2:45 p.m. The event is open to the public.

The viewing party was the inspiration of Grace Martin Harwell Senior Center Supervisor Stephen Clayton, who wanted to take seniors on a group trip to central South Carolina, in will be in the direct path of a total eclipse, but figured out that Beaufort County will experience plenty of eclipse as well.

“We’re going to be seeing almost as much as they are seeing down in South Carolina, minus the totality, so I thought let’s just do something here,” Clayton said. “If everything goes right with Public Works and electric department, the lights will not go on. It’s not going to get completely dark here, but it would get about as dark as it would at dusk.”

Clayton said he wanted the invitation to be extended to everyone, and was specifically thinking of seniors who may have grandchildren visiting in the week before school starts up again.

“We wanted to do something that Granddaddy and Grandmama, if they have the grandkids, they can bring them to Festival Park,” Clayton said.

Clayton said the parks and rec department will provide a limited number of solar eclipse glasses to hand out to those in attendance, as the amount of ultraviolet radiation could cause eye damage if the phenomena is viewed directly.

“They have to have a certain safety (rating) to them — and I think this is right — it’s similar to a welding shield. … I’m planning on getting 150. Right now, I have $75 in sponsorships, and I’m looking to get more sponsorships,” Clayton said, adding that $150 will buy 150 glasses.

Clayton said downtown businesses Rachel K’s Bakery and Russell’s Men’s Shop were the first to sign on as sponsors, and sponsorships are available for as little as $10.

For Clayton, the eclipse is about bringing people together, regardless of age.

“We hope can bring the community together for a once in a lifetime experience,” Clayton said.

For more information about sponsoring the event, contact Clayton at 252-975-9641 or email him at