The eclipse happened, just not visible here
The lawn at the Cloquet Public Library was filled with optimists Monday — people of all ages who were hoping the heavy clouds would part and grant them a glimpse of the first cross-continent solar eclipse in nearly a century.
"We like to look on the bright side," punned Cloquet's Dana Sanders, who drove to the library with her husband, John, and sons Josh and Ben.
But it wasn't to be. Unlike Duluth, where the sun (still partially covered by the moon) made an appearance at 1:12 p.m. for a short time, the skies over Cloquet remained grey, with only a hint of a bright spot (but no sun or moon) showing up in the hour before and after the eclipse was supposed to happen.
But library officials were ready, nonetheless.
In the large meeting room inside, library director Mary Lukkarila was handing out eclipse glasses to anyone who asked. A big screen TV was tuned to the Weather Channel, and a couple dozen people were watching the broadcast at any one time as the sun disappeared behind the moon again and again as it made its way across the continental United States.
"It's an educational program and a party to boot," Lukkarila said.
Just after 1 p.m., just before the eclipse would have reached its maximum coverage of about 80 percent in Cloquet, librarian Mark King reported that the library had given out nearly 850 of the eclipse glasses granted to it by the Space Science Institute.
Some had driven away with them, looking for nicer weather. Others — like Paul Holm of Cloquet — stuck it out.
"It is kind of a bust, but it's a social hour," he said, gesturing at the crowd of people outside, kids playing and climbing on trees and rocks, family groups taking selfies, others reading and waiting to see what was going to happen.
Lots of Cloquet residents were there, while others came from farther away. Proctor's Brynna Burnes was there with her two sons and two nieces to wait and watch. Siblings Brittany Noble and AJ Thompson were visiting from near Fargo, and brought their nieces, Paige and Claire Fontaine, to the library to join in the fun.
"We just stayed an extra day, for the beautiful weather," Noble said, laughing.
Many talked about friends and family who had traveled to the path of totality — 100 percent blockage of the sun — while others remembered past eclipse experiences while they waited.
Dick Stevens recalled driving to Winnipeg, Canada, in the winter of 1979 when they were living in Crookston.
"I was trying to take pictures with a film camera, and the shutter froze in totality," Stevens said. "As I recall, the temperatures were already below zero, then it got dark and the temperatures just plummeted. So I didn't get any [photos] of the totality."
Wrenshall's Dan Conley remembered skijoring with his sled dog across a frozen lake and lying on his back in the snow when it got dark during a previous eclipse, probably in 1979.
There was no such drama in Cloquet Monday.
"It just feels like a bad storm is coming," said Karen Sorenson.
Most of the prospective eclipse watchers took the weather in stride and went back to their lives once it became clear that Mother Nature wasn't going to cooperate.
But they kept their optimistic outlook.
"We can see it in Chicago in six or seven years," said Nancy Stevens, Dick's wife, referring to the predicted April 8, 2024 eclipse. "That's doable ... if we live that long."