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Organizations, parks prepare for eclipse

With the Aug. 21 eclipse coming close and closer, it’s time to start making plans for where you’re going to view the spectacle. The Parkland is full of prime locations, with different communities offering varying levels of involvement.

Tammi Coleman at the Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce said there are three main locations in the Park Hill-Leadington area to view the eclipse.

“Mineral Area College will be having an event on campus for folks, St. Joe State Park has great locations, and as a chamber we worked with the city and organized the availability of the sports complex,” she said. “That area will be open and available for folks to view from, and it’s the highest point in town.”

Superintendent Bill Bonnell at St. Joe State Park said there aren’t designated viewing locations at the park, but there are plenty of great spots to choose from.

“Our campgrounds will be full,” Bonnell said. “I think we have 52 campers staying on Monday night. We have large parking areas at Monsanto (Lake) and the RV staging area where it’s open with no trees. Those would be the best places to look.”

Glasses for viewing the eclipse have been available from the Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce and will continue to be while they’re still available, which may not be long.

“We’ll have them available here at the chamber office for a dollar a pair,” Coleman said. “We’ve already sold 3,000 of those and I just got in 1,000 more. They’re going fast. Within the last couple weeks, sales have just gone through the roof.”

She said she’s heard of folks traveling to Park Hills from as far as three hours away, though there are surely more that haven’t called ahead.

“People keep asking me, ‘How many people do you think we’re going to have? How many people are going to be here?’” Coleman said. “And I don’t have a clue. When we first started this I think the whole committee was just astounded that it was going to be this big of a deal.”

For more information about eclipse activities in Park Hills, call the Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce at 573-431-1051.

Laura Raymer is the director of operations/member engagement for the Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Following Thursday’s “Business and Community Luncheon,” she touched on the popularity of merchandise sold by the chamber in advance of the total solar eclipse on Monday – and a bit of what the area may expect.

“We are completely out of glasses at the office,” Raymer said at that time, before the chamber staff obtained additional glasses. “We only have a couple of T-shirts and that was before I left.”

Raymer said for the past couple of years the chamber has heard from those planning to visit the area to view the total eclipse.

“We’re not really for sure how many folks are coming,” Raymer said, adding the number coming to town to view the eclipse at one of many locations depends a lot on the weather.

“We’re hoping that it’s going to be clear. If it turns out to be cloudy instead …most of the folks that are coming here are from out of state. So, they’ll hop in their car and go somewhere along the path nearby that is clear.

“Potentially we could have several thousand people in our region that don’t normally live here.”

Raymer said the same is true for other local communities.

“De Soto is expecting 100,000; Ste. Gen and Perryville,” she said “It’s mind-blowing the amount of (visitors expected).”

She said avoiding Interstate 55 from Festus to south of Cape Girardeau is a good bit of advice for anyone.

“If you can find another route I would definitely recommend it,” she said. “(U.S. Highway) 67 around De Soto is also going to be a little bit of a challenge after the eclipse. Make sure that whatever it is you are planning for the day that you plan ahead – don’t wait to the last minute.”

Additionally, Raymer said, make sure gas tanks are full in case of an influx of visitors.

“We think it’s busy during Country Days or during the (St. Francois County) fair time … it’s about to get potentially really crazy busy,” she said.

That, Raymer said, is a plus for all the merchants in the area.

“All of our hotels are filled, the restaurants are anticipating huge numbers as well,” she said. “State parks are filled. Not just St. Joe. All 11 of them that are around us are filled. Even those that aren’t in (the area of) totality have people staying there that are then going to drive this direction into the path.”

Madison County is offering a few fun events for the solar eclipse on Monday.  The senior center is holding a “Get Mooned at the Solar Eclipse” party.  It will be from noon to 2 p.m. and eclipse-themed treats will be available for purchase. They will also have solar glasses.

Solar glasses have been a rarity with the Fredericktown Ozark Regional Library, Madison County Health Department, University of Missouri Extension Office, and Revival Trade & Coffee Company running out quickly.

Ozark Regional Library Branch Manager Bill Knight said “the town is in a pretty dire need for them.”

Fredericktown R-I Superintendent Brett Reutzel said, “Students will be sent home with glasses (ahead of the eclipse) along with instructions to insure their safety.”

The Madison Inn Lodge has been sold out for more than a month. Julie Klein from the University of Missouri Extension Office is looking forward to at least one of the many people coming to town.

“My mother is coming in from California. She is a scientist by profession so I am excited to share this rare moment with her.”

In preparation for a possible influx of people, Sheriff Katy McCutcheon said, “We will be placing patrol cars strategically throughout the county in case anything was to happen.”

Fredericktown Police Chief Eric Hovis is also making preparations, saying “… anytime something big like this happens in town I like to add extra officers to ensure the safety of our citizens.” 

This weekend’s annual Bonne Terre Aire Festival will carry over into Monday.

Airport manager Steve Vogt said the festival will provide folks a great place to watch the eclipse. Before the eclipse skydivers from Illinois will also make several jumps.

Vogt said staff will have eclipse glasses on hand, available for $2 a pair for those who don’t have a pair yet.

Admission for the weekend at the air festival is $5 for adults, $3 for those under 13 years old, and free for those under 4 years old. Once admission is paid, folks will receive a wristband which will allow them to re-enter the event throughout the weekend.

No admission will be charged on Monday.

According to astronomers, the partial eclipse will begin about 11:52 a.m. and end at about 2:44 p.m. that day. MAC?s celebration of the highly anticipated celestial event will officially begin at 10 a.m. and wind up around 2 p.m. 

MAC horticulture instructor and MAC eclipse effort organizer, Dr. Chad Follis, said the school is “very excited” about the solar eclipse, and in anticipation of the event, a variety of plans were hatched last spring.

“MAC got involved with the St. Louis Chapter of the Eclipse Taskforce,” he said. “There’s a group in Kansas City, of course it comes through St. Jo, through the Kansas City region and down through the St. Louis area. As an offshoot of the St. Louis group, we started attending their monthly meetings.

“We’ve kind of adopted what other people are doing to fit our campus, our budget and what we’re trying to accomplish that day. What we’re calling our event is an Eclipse Fall Festival. It’s the fall semester and kind of the first day back.

“We have a number of active student clubs and organizations on campus whose members are pretty excited about the eclipse,” he said. “It’?s a special opportunity, kicking off the fall semester by holding a carnival under the canopy of a rare, astronomical event. It provides an opportunity to have a little fun, but also learn about the complete solar eclipse.”

Follis said groups that are serious about the eclipse can park at and use the baseball field to set up their cameras, equipment, telescopes, blankets and lawn chairs. For those wanting more of a festival experience, the action will happen on the main campus quadrangle, moving out to the parking lot during the peak of the eclipse, which will be narrated over a public address system.

“?We’?re approaching it from a festive, but educational, angle,? Follis said. ?”The meaty part of the eclipse happens so quickly, It’ll be important to time everything as punctually as possible, but we’?re up to the challenge.?” 

In addition to the eclipse itself, those who come to MAC?s eclipse celebration can also expect to enjoy:

— A special viewing area dedicated to scientists and professionals at the MAC baseball field.

— Cardinals Nest cafeteria dining with limited menu for purchase.

— Missouri Baptist University?s ?Kan Jam? game, testing players? Frisbee-throwing (mini-UFO throwing) ability.

— Psi Beta will have a Lucy Van Pelt-like information booth on eclipse and event information.

— Archery club will have a ?Shoot for the Moon? contest.

— PTK will offer watermelon wedges ?out of this world.?

— Art Club has created a photo-opp backdrop featuring an intergalactic panorama (based on Georges Melies?s’ ?Trip to the Moon?).

— SGA will have a cornhole (black hole) tournament and offer rocket pops for snacks.

— SMSTA will share free ?asteroid? popcorn in their reading circle.

— The agriculture program will have ?Nugget the Half-Cow? on hand, to practice artificial bovine insemination, ?sticking it where the sun don?t shine.?

— Cricket Wireless is offering free, temporary tattoos and bottled water.

— MAC Food Pantry will have an inflatable for the kids.

— Fine Arts Theatre is scheduled to have a live NASA feed of the eclipse. 

One of the first things on MAC officials? eclipse checklist was to adjust the first day of fall semester. The semester now begins at 4 p.m. that day, with staff and faculty reporting for the work day in the morning, as regularly scheduled.

“What we’re doing is having sort of a partial first day of school,” Follis explained. “We’re closed for classes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., so we won’t have any classes during that period to allow folks to get out and experience it as part of a campus community. From 4 o’clock on through 9:30 p.m., night classes will go on as scheduled. Eight o’clock classes will begin on the morning of the 22nd.” 

For more information about MAC’?s eclipse celebration contact Dr. Chad Follis at 573-518-2323, or by email at cfollis@mineralarea.edu.

A line forms outside the Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce on Friday for a sudden supply of eclipse glasses obtained on Thursday. Laura Raymer, director of operations, said folks began showing up before the office's 9 a.m. opening to purchase the glasses for $1 each.

A line forms outside the Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce on Friday for a sudden supply of eclipse glasses obtained on Thursday. Laura Raymer, director of operations, said folks began showing up before the office’s 9 a.m. opening to purchase the glasses for $1 each.

Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at jscott@dailyjournalonline.com.

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