Organizers around the Heartland prepare for 2024 Total Solar Eclipse

SOUTHEAST Mo. (KFVS) - The 2024 total solar eclipse is just five months away; and many parts of our region are prime areas for anyone who wants to see it.

Across the Heartland planning and preparation for the eclipse on April 8 is in full swing.

That means planning events, planning for all of the tourists coming to town, and planning to make the entire experience unforgettable. One Michigan woman who will be in southeast Missouri for the eclipse said she’s been planning this trip for years.

“A lot of people that went in 2017 as soon as it was over, I know that was true for me and a lot of people it was like yeah I’m not going to miss the next one,” Cindy Birnbaum said.

Birnbaum will be in southeast Missouri, right in the path of totality.

Her and her husband along with her two daughters and their families are some of the tens of thousands that will travel to the Heartland for the eclipse. They’re making a nearly 12-hour haul from Saginaw, Michigan.

“Other people that we told that we were traveling this far to go see an eclipse were like, ‘Uhh really? That’s kind of weird,’” Birnbaum said.

But for her, it’s worth it.

“You have to be there like you know when you go to the Grand Canyon you can look at pictures and hear other people’s stories and stuff, but you have to be there to experience it,” Birnbaum said.

“We’re anticipating 20-25,000 additional people in our community,” Steve Halter said.

Inside the Poplar Bluff Chamber of Commerce, Chamber President Halter said eclipse glasses, t-shirts and other merchandise are already flying off the shelves. And that’s only from locals so far.

“When you’re talking about over double the size of your population, it takes a lot of planning,” Halter said.

“We’re almost doubling our population,” Trish Erzfeld said.

She is the tourism director in Perry County. They’re expecting the same.

“Visitors from Canada and France and California, and New Jersey,” Erzfeld said.

“Eclipses gather people from around the world that travel to see them,” Robert Bae, SIU eclipse committee co-chair, said.

At SIU in Carbondale, it’s no different.

“We had 30,000 visitors to campus in 2017, we’re expecting about the same,” Baer said.

That 2017 eclipse had a major impact on how they’re planning this time around.

“We were just really blown away by what the event was so we’re doing even more planning this time around,” Erzfeld said.

“I think the stage was set in 2017 and then after the fact and when everyone saw pictures on social media and on the news, a lot of people were like, ‘oh man, I really missed out on that,,” Halter said.

“The duration of it, the duration of totality is 4 minutes and 9 seconds here on campus,” Baer said. “Which is almost twice as long as the one in 2017.″

Around 4 minutes of totality will be seen around the region.

“Perry County will have 4 minutes and 5 seconds,” Erzfeld said.

“We have one of the longest durations for totality in the country,” Halter said. “It’s huge and it’s gonna have a big economic impact.”

Poplar Bluff Missouri is listed on NASA’s website as one of the best places to view the eclipse in April.

“Our hotels are all sold out, a lot of people are selling out their places for Airbnb’s,” Halter said.

And because of all of the attention on the region planners are going all out on activities for the community and for the visitors.

In Poplar Bluff, a four-day event will feature a retired astronaut giving a presentation, a downtown music festival, and over twenty viewing stations.

In Perry County, a mobile planetarium, a balloon show and a balloon glow, a car and bike show, and a 5k glow run/walk.

And hosted by the Saluki’s, another four day festival, an expo, an arts and crafts fair, a comic con, and telescope feeds coming in from across the country.

“Everybody’s really embraced the whole event and really created a four-day event that I think people are going to really be pleased with not just our people but all of the visitors as well,” Halter said.

All of this hype – for four minutes of totality.

“When people experience eclipses, it triggers something in a lot of people, the feeling is almost this anxiety from seeing the sun go away in the middle of the day,” Baer said.

“This is only going to happen once in our lifetimes,” Halter said.

Along with the rarity of the eclipse, comes the unique opportunity for people around the globe to see our region’s hidden gem.

“I think more than anything we’re just really excited to show what our area has,” Halter said. “Not just Poplar Bluff, what the region has what the Ozarks have.”

Back up in Michigan, Cindy Birnbaum said the most exciting part for her, enjoying it with her grandson.

“I think that will be especially meaningful for me to see it with him,” Birnbaum said.

And the next time this phenomenon comes around, she hopes he will take his family on an adventure to see it too.

“When there’s another total solar eclipse in the future like the next one that comes through is like 2045 or something,” Birnbaum said. “Well, I won’t be around, but he’ll hopefully remember fondly and want to experience that again too.”

The Poplar Bluff Chamber of Commerce also said they have two big eclipse weekend announcements coming up. One of them is a huge musical act that will play at the Black River Coliseum. That announcement will be made November 22 at 10 a.m.

Nicki Clark

Nicki Clark

Nicki joined Heartland News in May 2022 as a multi-media journalist.