Tiffany Francis stared into a box of Lucky Charms at Klyde Warren Park.
She turned her body to the left. Then to the right. She looked up from the cereal box, frustrated.
“I don’t know if it’s going to work,” Francis said, just as the moon started to inch across the sun.
The 42-year-old from Carrollton delayed the start of her workday Monday morning to watch the solar eclipse. She chose the downtown Dallas park because it was an open space, but she didn’t have solar glasses to safely look at the sun.
Francis was far from the only one figuring out ways to safely watch the eclipse. While hundreds of people at the park had solar glasses, many had their own pinhole cameras. Two 8-year-olds even walked around with welder’s masks.
For the past few weeks, Francis had tried to find a pair of glasses online. She failed, and instead learned online how to make a pinhole camera. She used a spare box of Lucky Charms, ripped two holes in the top, put a white sheet of paper at the bottom, wrapped a portion with foil and blue tape, poked a couple of holes and hoped it would work.
It didn’t — at first. But after a few adjustments, Francis was able to see the shadow of the sun in the bottom of her Lucky Charms.
“It’s happening!” she said.
One Dallas man, Conor McCarthy, had the genius idea to order 50 pairs of solar glasses printed with his company’s name, Advancial. Just before 1:09 p.m., the peak point in Dallas when 75 percent of the sun was covered, the 31-year-old walked into the park and handed out the glasses.
Francis snagged a pair. Same with Bailey Burkhalter, a 25-year-old from Dallas, who had just acquired a pair.
“Man, I wish you were here five minutes ago,” Burkhalter said to McCarthy. “I just bought these for $20.”
Similar scenes played out across North Texas and the U.S. on Monday, as the eclipse swept across the country. Some people drove many miles and spent thousands to get to areas of total eclipse. Others merely stepped outside their homes, offices and schools for a look at the rare event.
Some, despite extensive warnings, couldn't resist looking at the sun without protection during the eclipse. Several social media users in North Texas took to Twitter to complain about eye pain after taking a peek without protective gear.
But the first 3,000 people at the Dallas Arboretum were covered. That’s how many pairs of solar glasses were distributed there, even though the “Minutes of Midnight” eclipse viewing party attracted roughly 7,000 people.
Those who weren’t able to snag a pair of glasses acquired card stock to poke holes and cast shadows. Many people also brought their own shadow-casting devices, including spaghetti colanders.
At the event, children were taught about the science behind the eclipse and also made their own pinhole projectors.
As the moon crept over the sun, people swapped glasses and viewing devices, experimenting with the different views each provided. Between craning necks and studying shadows, there were lawn games, picnics and food trucks, all with a view of White Rock Lake.
“It’s a little bit of a party atmosphere,” said Michael Wohlfeld, 53, a local photographer who enjoyed the sense of community the solar eclipse brought.
Over at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, music set the stage.
At 1:09 p.m., a song blasted across the plaza — Bonnie Tyler’s hit single “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” In near-perfect sync, visitors tilted their heads toward the sky.
An estimated 5,000 visitors watched from the Dallas museum, which hosted a NASA live-stream screening. Astronomers on the Perot’s education staff volunteered at various booths, where families and kids gathered to build their own solar system diagrams and makeshift pinhole cameras.
“Eclipses happen all the time, but one that is visible for us — especially at this level — is rare, so we wanted to celebrate it,” said Linda Abraham-Silver, CEO at the Perot. “Science touches all of us. ... I hope this event encourages people to pursue their interests in it.”
The celebration saw North Texans of all ages, from infants to senior citizens. For many patrons, the greatest takeaway of the event was to see how the eclipse inspired the next generation of scientists.
Emily Powers, a 37-year-old from Dallas, and her children, 8-year-old Kendal and 4-year-old Adam, were excited to watch the eclipse in real time.
“I love science, and my daughter loves science,” Powers said. “This was a great opportunity to teach her about what happens in a solar eclipse. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Kendal was equipped with a homemade camera obscura designed for safely viewing the eclipse, made out of a Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal box and foil.
“It’s NASA-approved,” Kendal said.
Staff writer Cassandra Jaramillo contributed to this report.
Videographer Tommy Noel and reporter Alejandra Salazar were on hand for the festivities at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, where a large crowd gathered for a watching party: