Sunshine, snacks and laughs features of Bugbee’s solar eclipse party

The moon begins to pass away from the sun during the solar eclipse viewed from the Bugbee Senior Center in White River Junction, Vt., on Monday, April 8, 2024. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

The moon begins to pass away from the sun during the solar eclipse viewed from the Bugbee Senior Center in White River Junction, Vt., on Monday, April 8, 2024. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — James M. Patterson

Don Mason, of White River Junction, middle, eats a moon pie while watching the solar eclipse with Carol Tucker, of West Lebanon, left, and Betty Ann Heistad, of Lebanon, right, during an eclipse watch party at the Bugbee Senior Center in White River Junction, Vt., on Monday, April 8, 2024. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Don Mason, of White River Junction, middle, eats a moon pie while watching the solar eclipse with Carol Tucker, of West Lebanon, left, and Betty Ann Heistad, of Lebanon, right, during an eclipse watch party at the Bugbee Senior Center in White River Junction, Vt., on Monday, April 8, 2024. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — James M. Patterson

Carol Tucker, of West Lebanon, hands a stick back to Bugbee Senior Center volunteer and activity coordinator Susan Manley after breaking an eclipse themed piñata from its string during a solar eclipse watch party in White River Junction, Vt., on Monday, April 8, 2024. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Carol Tucker, of West Lebanon, hands a stick back to Bugbee Senior Center volunteer and activity coordinator Susan Manley after breaking an eclipse themed piñata from its string during a solar eclipse watch party in White River Junction, Vt., on Monday, April 8, 2024. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

The Bugbee Senior Center holds a solar eclipse watch party in White River Junction, Vt., on Monday, April 8, 2024. Guests played corn hole, broke a piñata, and ate eclipse themed cookies and Moon Pies. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

The Bugbee Senior Center holds a solar eclipse watch party in White River Junction, Vt., on Monday, April 8, 2024. Guests played corn hole, broke a piñata, and ate eclipse themed cookies and Moon Pies. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

By LIZ SAUCHELLI

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-08-2024 7:46 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Thousands of travelers might’ve been headed north to see the total solar eclipse, but people gathered at the Bugbee Senior Center Monday in downtown White River Junction thought they had the best seat on Earth.

“No kidding we got the best view here at Bugbee,” Brenda Lamphere, of White River Junction, remarked while standing in the parking lot of the nonprofit organization.

Lamphere, 63, was one of roughly 50 people who turned out for a solar eclipse party hosted by the senior center, which began around 1 p.m. A NASA livestream tracking the eclipse’s path was projected on a large screen in the center’s dining room and people gathered outside to play cornhole while snacking on Moon Pies and black and white cookies.

Rather than sitting in traffic on the nearby interstates, everyone seemed quite happy to be at Bugbee for the first outdoor event of the year.

And while the sunshine and snacks were part of the appeal, the activity that generated the most laughs was a moon-shaped pinata stuffed with Milky Way bars and York Peppermint Patties.

A little before 2 p.m., a group of about 15 made their way inside where a moon-shaped pinata hung from the ceiling in an activity room.

Each participant, wearing a white mask as a blindfold, got two whacks. Each time someone executed a hard hit, they were met with cheers from the crowd. It took seven people to make the candy fall to the floor.

Back outside, Marilyn Peterson, of Wilder, showed off an eclipse viewer she made out of a shoe box that morning, after seeing a YouTube video demonstration of it. When the sun passed through a pinprick hole on the top of the box, its shape — and the shadow crossing over it — was visible inside the box.

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“I got really excited when I saw Bugbee was having a party,” said Peterson, who described her age as 65-plus.

Dick Rossoll, a 71-year-old Lebanon resident, had been on the lookout for an event to attend when he heard about Bugbee’s.

Like Peterson, he’d brought his own eclipse viewing device.

Rossoll had a colander that he held in the path of the sun. When the sun passed through the holes, the shadow the moon was creating could be seen.

Rossoll, like others in attendance, tried to take a photo on his phone by holding it up to a pair of eclipse glasses, but the quality wasn’t great.

“Impressive,” he said about the celestial display. “A picture is not going to do it justice.”

Around 3:15 p.m., people began remarking that it started to feel colder and the wind felt stronger. They sat in rows of chairs in the parking lot, taking their eclipse glasses on and off — and kindly reminding each other to be careful to not look at the sun directly. While conversation never fully paused, it got quieter and words like “wonderful,” “cool,” and “amazing” started to be heard more often.

Carol Tucker, of West Lebanon, said she knew she could sit in her backyard and view the eclipse from there, but being with everyone at Bugbee was special. People traded laughs and stories, which she enjoyed.

“The majority of us know we’re not going to see it again,” Tucker, 82, said. “It’s so neat they did this for all of us and made it into a fun time as well.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.