I Went to the Country’s Biggest Fair to Watch the Eclipse From a Ferris Wheel

Sure, the path of totality will be amazing, but will people there be able to see the eclipse, then buy a corndog, and throw it up on a spinning cups ride?

Aug 21 2017, 6:05pm

Image: Jacob Dubé

Canada's not in the path of totality during Monday's eclipse, but that didn't stop thousands of people from finding a good pair of solar glasses, gathering some friends, and looking up. The eclipse was partially viewable across a lot of the country.

I figured, where else would be better to watch a solar eclipse—one of nature's greatest and most beautiful wonders, causing centuries of astronomical curiosity—than in the same place where people gorge themselves on deep-fried donut burgers and win giant Minion dolls? That would be the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), an annual carnival/showroom event in downtown Toronto. The Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto was there to hand out solar glasses and help people watch the eclipse.

When I first arrived, I thought that the massive line in front of me was waiting for smoked turkey legs, but they really all came out to stare at the Sun.

"It's not that often that people can see something that's very rare. Rare things just excite people," said Michael Reid, professor of astronomy at U of T.

First impression of putting on proper solar glasses: They're the coolest things I've ever put on my face. At first you think that they're broken, because you don't see anything. But like the North Star in the middle of some weird fairy tale, you find the Sun and just look at it. It's the biggest middle finger to Mother Nature—her big burning baby is staring at us, and we finally get to stare back. I'm then advised to not look for too long.

Read More: Inside the Thriving Subculture of Eclipse Chasers

U of T picked the CNE for its eclipse party because it's a good place to get people learning about the eclipse in the middle of a workday.

"It's a really great opportunity to share astronomy with people who wouldn't usually be interested," said U of T grad student Ariel Amaral.

And there's just something special about watching a rare celestial event at the CNE, also known as the Ex. Sure, the path of totality in the US will be amazing, but will people there be able to see the eclipse, then buy a corndog, and throw it up on a spinning cups ride? It's like being at a futuristic expo where old becomes new again.

After having a beef-cricket taco (wasn't bad, a bit crunchy), I'm settling in for the eclipse on the Ferris wheel. At the top, I feel like some sort of space king, looking down at my carnival subjects while I'm looking at the Moon block out the Sun. It would be apocalyptic if it wasn't so entrancing.

Eclipses just bring a sense of universal wonder. Nobody needs to understand what's happening on the astrophysical side to know that it's special, because it feels special. It doesn't even matter that us Canadians have to wait until April 8, 2024 to get a path of totality of our own.

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