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A Solar Eclipse Celebration at Wave Hill

By David T. Valentin


This Monday (April 8th), the day of the eclipse, Wave Hill , an historic mansion in Riverdale in New York City’s Bronx, hosted a Solar Eclipse viewing celebration with upward of 350+ people including locals, politicians, musicians, and plenty of press.


The day was a hot and sunny one, so much so that, at first, I regretted wearing a warm, fuzzy sweater. It was my first time at Wave Hill, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was told the grounds were beautiful by Riverdale Avenue Books’ Publisher Lori Perkins—an old, historic place built right along the Hudson River.


Coming in to the main gates of Wave Hill, I was amazed at the almost secluded nature of the Garden Center and Cultural Setting. Dotting along the rights to either side are houses with their own little stories, under plenty of land and tall roofs, but none of them compared to Wave Hill’s presentation.



I was immediately captivated by how green and lively the place was, not just with people buzzing about but the amount of beautiful life there was present at the site. Fully bloomed trees and flowers hugged the path leading up to the open grounds where the solar eclipse viewing was taking place. Coming out of the bramble of bushes, trees and flowers, the space opens up to the vastness of the Hudson, and there in the sky is the sun blazing in all its glory with only a few clouds streaking the sky; none of them, luckily, covering the main attraction: the coming solar eclipse.


The grounds were buzzing with people from across generations, many of which came with at least one person—a family member, a lover, a friend, a coworker. As music streamed  as a small classical band of no more than three people played on the lower terrace of Wave Hill, people were excitedly preparing for the coming eclipse.


On our way to my spot on the grass, close to the edge of the lawn, I stopped to see the activities going on and found myself pleasantly surprised that they were giving away two variants of sunflowers and a moonflower, which only blooms at night!


Being the gardener that I am, I took one of each sunflower and then a moonflower. There were other activities, such as representatives from The Natural History Museum and the New York Public Library, but I didn’t want to cut into anyone’s time viewing the solar eclipse.


Then I took a spot right on the grass, not even caring about the midafternoon dew on the grass.


After a short speech by the executive director of Wave Hill and a local councilman, Eric Dinowitz, the solar eclipse kicked off! Heads immediately snapped to the sky. Many viewers joked how when someone mentioned that the eclipse had started, they immediately looked up at the sun without the protective viewing glasses, myself included. The excitement apparently couldn’t be contained.


For the most part, the clouds stayed out of the way for most of the solar eclipse. Bit by bit, viewers could see the moon slowly inching its way in between the Earth and the sun until finally the sun was nothing more than a sliver in the sky, glowing an almost Halloween orange. And while the eclipse lasted for only about two hours, the whole time it felt like a blissful eternity.


I had the chance to speak to Wave Hill’s newest president and executive director, Ray Oladapo-Johnson who has been onboard since late July. Mr. Oladapo-Johnson is an experienced horticulturist and as well as an experienced man in the realm of managing public green spaces in urban areas. His previous position was as Vice President, Park Operations and the Chief Safety Officer at Friends of the High Line.


“I came here 30-years ago as a young man,” Mr. Oladapo-Johnson recalled to the crowd within the opening minutes of the eclipse, as well as to me after the eclipse. “I instantly fell in love with Wave Hill, and I said to myself, ‘I want to work here. I want to run this place.’”


Mr. Oladapo-Johnson told me, and a fellow editor at Riverdale Avenue Books, how experiences such as these are a balance between professionalism and personability. “We are always looking to expand, to make things better, more beautiful.”


The president and executive director welcomes fellow lovers of the space to share their ideas to making things personable, fun, and accessible to as many people as possible in as many ways as possible.


I can tell you for certain—this is the first of many visits to the hidden gem of Riverdale, Bronx that is Wave Hill. 

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