200,000-person influx expected in southern Illinois for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse | St. Louis Public Radio

200,000-person influx expected in southern Illinois for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse

Jul 13, 2017

The Aug. 21 total solar eclipse event creeps ever closer. While the path of totality crosses quite a bit of Missouri, and even part of St. Louis, the longest duration of the eclipse will actually be in southern Illinois. 

In Murphysboro and Makanda, totality will last for a whopping two minutes and 40 seconds. At one point in the Shawnee National Forest, just south of Carbondale, eclipse viewers will see totality for two minutes and 44 seconds. According to eclipse enthusiasts, those seconds make a big difference.

This celestial event is expected to draw 200,000 people to the region from Shawnee National Forest to the Metro East in southern Illinois, according to Cory Jobe, the tourism director for the state of Illinois.

Carbondale alone is expecting a 50,000-person influx; that's where NASA will set up camp at SIU and the Saluki Stadium will host a watch party that could accommodate 35,000.

Jobe said you'll be able to see the total solar eclipse from the main street in Makanda, but he also recommended a visit to the Shawnee National Forest area for quality eclipse viewing.

"The Bald Knob Cross, which sits atop a hill, has 360-degree views, unobstructed views," Jobe said.

While most mainstream hotels have been booked for quite some time (and if any rooms are still unoccupied, they're pretty pricey), but unconventional lodging still has space. Jobe recommended campgrounds in Shawnee National Forest, mom and pop roadside motels, and the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds as lodging that still remains moderately priced.

Oh, and Ozzy Osbourne is slated to make an appearance in southern Illinois during the eclipse. Literally. Osbourne will sing "Bark at the Moon" just as the eclipse reaches totality from the Moonstock Solar Eclipse Festival in Carterville. 

Listen to Jobe discuss how southern Illinois is preparing for eclipse fever here:

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