Five stories above Gainesville, on top of the city-owned parking garage downtown, about 150 people gathered to gaze at a large yellow supermoon Monday night.
As the sun set at about 6 p.m., the moon revealed itself while music played and people roller-bladed, biked and walked around the top of the concrete garage.
For Tyler Francischine, a UF Health employee, it was a time to forget about the election for an evening, at least.
She said beyond roller-blading, she comes to the top of the garage regularly to think, write and watch the sunset.
“I think that in a time like right now, with the election, it’s important to be together as a community,” she said. “The sky is doing its thing, and we can all be together as one — it’s good timing for something like this. It reminds us we’re more alike than we think.”
Francischine was joined by Maynard Shaye, her colleague at UF Health and a fellow member of the roller-blading group Thndr Bldrz.
Shaye, 26, said the group meets atop the garage every week to skate.
“We have a lot of fun up here,” Shaye said.
This week, the group’s members decided to meet to celebrate the supermoon — when the full moon is closest to Earth and appears largest. Monday’s moon was the largest since 1948, and the next supermoon won’t come around until 2034, according to NASA.
Francischine said she made a public Facebook event to watch the moon but, by the next day, more than 500 people had shown interest.
“It just went viral,” she said. “I don’t think any of us were expecting that.”
Couples sat cocooned in blankets and kids played tag underneath the street lamps, but when the moon came out from behind clouds, the majority pressed against the garage’s walls to get a good look. Some howled.
Joe Cucchiaro Jr. stood with his dog, Wiley, watching clouds move across the moon. He said he and his German shepherd-golden retriever mix have been backpacking on and off for 10 years and just rolled into town from Michigan.
“I got here like 20 minutes ago, and I saw a bunch of little heads over the rail from the street,” he said. “I figured I would see what was going on.”
He said he’s not sure how long he will stay in Gainesville, but he was glad to be here to see the community gathered to celebrate the moon. From here, he’s headed to St. Petersburg, Florida.
“It’s pretty,” he said. “It’s very yellow.”
Edwin Smith and Brian Kleeger walked 30 minutes from their home at Graham Hall to join the party.
They both saw the event on Facebook, and Kleeger said he wasn’t expecting to see so many kids.
“Living on campus, you always forget Gainesville is a place with dogs and kids,” Kleeger said. “I’m pretty wowed. I’ve never seen a moon this bright before.”
Gainesville residents and UF students watch the supermoon on the roof of a parking garage above Volta Coffee, Tea and Chocolate on Monday night. About 150 people showed up with dogs, roller blades and cameras to see the moon at its brightest and closest location to the Earth until the next supermoon in 2034.