Communities from Oregon to South Carolina are preparing for an influx of visitors Aug. 21 — many of them pulling or driving RVs — to experience the first total solar eclipse to sweep across the U.S. in nearly 100 years.
Some 12.2 million people in 14 states will be in the path of totality after the eclipse reaches the Continental United States between Portland and Salem, Ore., at 7:16 a.m. EDT, and concludes southeast of Colombia, S.C., at 2:48 p.m. Others to the north and south, in areas like Maine and south Texas, will see a 50% partial eclipse. The next total eclipse in the U.S. will occur in 2045, traversing from northern California to Florida.
The epicenter, where there will be total darkness for the longest period of time, is Hopkinsville, Ky., a town of about 32,000 people located in the southwest corner of the state that has aggressively promoted itself as ”Eclipseville.” To mark the event, Hopkinsville is planning a Friday-Sunday celebration before the sun disappears on Monday at 1:24:41 p.m. (CDT) for two minutes and 40 seconds.
And while there are no RV parks or campgrounds in Hopkinsville’s immediate area like there are in Oregon, where every reserveable site has already been spoken for, the eclipse is proving to be a major event in the RV universe for the town and elsewhere in the area.
With the closest RV park located in Clarksville, Tenn., 10 miles away, Hopkinsville and Christian County have gone all out to create temporary campgrounds to accommodate RVers who will be among the 100,000 visitors the community expects to see over the long four-day weekend.
Officials already have created five ”viewing areas” — and expect to designate a sixth — where RVs and visitors in autos can park on the day of the eclipse for a $30 entrance fee for up to 10 people.
”We’ve gotten quite a few inquiries from RVers,” said Brooke Jung, the solar eclipse marketing and event coordinator. ”Using one of our viewing areas is a lot better that watching it from the side of the road.”
Lights will be turned off in those locations to better accommodate viewing the eclipse. Locations include baseball parks, soccer fields and the Trail of Tears Commemorative Park, which has designated several dozen viewing locations and will rent out 14 RV sites that have water and electricity.
At Burdoc Farms in Crofton, Ky., 12 miles north of Hopkinsville, and at most other ”unofficial” locations, the accommodations will be basic.
”We are doing primitive camping,” said Sara Shepherd, who co-owns Burdoc Farms with her husband, Keith, noting that the farm will open its property to RVers while also hosting a bluegrass festival and other activities during the three days preceding the eclipse. “We are limiting the number of camping spots to 50 and they will have access to water and Porta-Potties.”
Cost is $500 for five days and $250 for three days.
”This isn’t really about camping,” she said. ”It’s all about the eclipse. Our farm is very close to ground zero and is on the second highest hill in Christian County. It’s perfect for viewing.”
Ten miles west at the Clarksville (Tenn.) RV Park and Campground, Workkamper Jim Ganci said the park’s 61 RV sites and six tent sites ”have been booked solid for a year and a half.”
”We don’t even have a tent site,” he said. ”We’ve been turning people away for months and we’re still getting five or six calls a day. We’ve looked for other places to send them, but there is no place else to go.”
The event is expected to spiff up the reputation of Hopkinsville. The state spent $300,000 on upgrades to the Hopkinsville-Christian County Airport, and the city expects to benefit from an estimated $30 million impact the eclipse will have on the community. Two cell towers, which will remain after the eclipse, have been added to handle the expected number of cell phone calls.
”Hopefully it’s going to be a very positive thing for the city,” said Cheryl Cook, executive director of the Hopkinsville/Christian County Convention and Visitors Bureau. ”It’s as organized as it can possibly be, but there’s going to be chaos because of the number of people. When I heard about the eclipse 10 years ago, I said we’d have plenty of time to get ready. And all of a sudden, here we are, and my stomach is getting a little more queasy every day.”
”Everybody is talking about the eclipse because they see it as such a wonderful opportunity,” Hopkinsville Mayor Carter Hendricks told the Associated Press. ”It provides a unique, scientific experience for eclipse chasers from all over the world. They’re excited that Hopkinsville is on the international map. They’re excited to play host to visitors from all over the world.”
At Pennyrile Forest State Park, 15 miles from Hopkinsville, Manager Peter Bowles said the eclipse ”is almost a scary big deal in terms of the number of people that are expected.”
The park, which will have two hot-air balloon releases the day of the eclipse and a post-eclipse evening program with astronomer George Lomaga, has 32 RV sites that were fully booked in mid-July. Additionally, 30 of the 50 primitive overflow sites were already spoken for.
MB Roland Distillery, located in the county 10 miles from Hopkinsville, is sponsoring a Friday and Saturday tasting of bourbons and other liquors from 15 distilleries and is opening its grounds to primitive campers who are ready to boondock.
”We have grass to put them on. That’s about it,” said co-owner Paul Tomaszewski. ”As far as electric and so forth, that will be on the renter.”