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‘It’s our Super Bowl’: This science teacher is going all out for the eclipse.

Anticipating snarled traffic and spotty student attendance, schools in Canton, Texas, pop. 4,229, were among the districts in East Texas that closed on Monday for the solar eclipse. Bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush bloomed along Interstate 20, where signs warned visitors to “ARRIVE EARLY, STAY PUT, LEAVE LATE.”

The city, about 60 miles east of Dallas, is accustomed to influxes of crowds for a sprawling monthly shopping event that it bills as the world’s largest flea market.

Canton purchased 7,000 custom eclipse glasses for a partial eclipse last fall and today’s full solar eclipse, which it started planning for several years ago. But Monday’s forecast was for heavy cloud cover, and some maps showed possibilities of hail or tornadoes.

Brent and Jamie Driggers had driven to Texas from Hillsboro, Kan., a rural area about an hour’s drive north of Wichita. Ms. Driggers wore a T-shirt commemorating the family’s trip to Nebraska to view the 2017 total eclipse. She had been drawn to that eclipse by scientific curiosity, she said. But it was a more profound communal experience than she had expected, driving her to seek it out again.

“It went dark, and there was an intake of air,” she recalled. “I hope we’ll feel that community spirit.”

The darkened sky in Canton, Texas.Credit…Ruth Graham/The New York Times

In the end, only a few dozen visitors, and about the same number of city employees, had gathered at the grassy grounds around the civic center by noon. Families unfolded camping chairs, unpacked picnics and set up cameras to capture the event, if their luck would hold.

“It’s just a total crapshoot,” said Don Kelly, a retired police officer who traveled from Baton Rouge, La., with his wife, Donna. “There’s no do-overs for whatever number of years. It’s now or never for some of us.”

Edgar Peréz kept his son Evan, 13, and daughter Ariana, 6, home from school to experience the eclipse. He hoped they would recognize “the celestial side of things,” he said.

“We’re just a small part of the universe,” he added.

The children spooned colorful icees from plastic foam cups and squinted up at the cloudy sky.

Around 12:30 p.m., the clouds parted. The moon edged in front of the sun. “It’s starting, it’s starting!” someone shouted. The clouds covered the sun again, and then parted again, over and over.

Meg Veitch, a geologist in Alabama, met up with her parents, Chris and Jim Veitch, who traveled from Berkeley, Calif. She was wearing a dress with a solar-system pattern, and checking her camera that she had propped up and covered with an $8 telescope cover in hopes of capturing the moment. As the sky got darker, the family brought out a round cake decorated like a cloudy, dark sky, and quietly sang “Happy Birthday” to Chris.

At 1:41 p.m., the sky went dark. There was a hush, then a cheer as the clouds parted again to reveal the spectacular sight of the moon perfectly centered in front of the sun. Then a hush again.

“It’s one of the longest and shortest moments of your life,” Meg Veitch said.

Afterward, Mr. Kelly walked slowly across the parking lot with a smile on his face. “I’ll have driven 12 hours and change for two seconds of eclipse,” he said. “I’d do it again tomorrow.”

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