From Here To Totality: A Check-In With Towns Along The Path Of Totality

How the towns at the center of the eclipse’s path are gonna ring in the occasion with an influx of tourists.

THE UPCOMING eclipse will cut a diagonal path across Indiana from just west of Evansville to just east of Fort Wayne, darkening an area 115 miles wide. But not all points in the zone of totality are created equal, thanks to the roundness of the moon’s shadow. Stand near the center line of the eclipse, and you’re guaranteed about four sunless minutes. Stand near the edge, and it could all be over in a couple of seconds—which would be a monumental missed opportunity.

Hundreds of thousands of eclipse chasers will soon descend on the state in search of that perfect viewing spot—most likely as close to the center line as possible. It’s easy to find Hoosier cities with lengthy totality, but why stop there? NASA scientists have the capability to “figure out exactly where the moon’s shadow will fall on the surface of the Earth, down to the city block,” says the website Space.com. An online interactive map by Xavier M. Jubier, a French eclipse enthusiast, shows similar detail.

Let’s put on the zoom lens and discover some of the businesses, schools, parks, and other sites that lie along the center line—and how they plan to respond to the wave of eclipse tourists who will, in some cases, nearly double the town’s population. City workers will be on-call. No parking signs will be placed (and ignored) along main thoroughfares. Golf carts will be a main mode of transportation.

The moon’s midsection will first shadow Indiana at 3:02 p.m. after trekking across southern Illinois. Bizarrely, because of the twisty Wabash River, it will toggle between Illinois and Indiana two more times before crossing Vincennes. The four minutes and five seconds of totality enjoyed in western Indiana will gradually shorten to three minutes and 59 seconds as the eclipse makes its way to the northwestern Ohio border, so Vincennes is rightly touting its status as having the “longest darkness in the state.”

Departing Vincennes, the moon makes a 40-mile beeline to downtown Bloomfield. Apparently, neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night—even when it’s only four minutes long—can prompt the closure of the Bloomfield Post Office, because it plans to follow its regular hours on April 8 according to an employee who declined to be named. He was unfazed by the anticipated human deluge: “We’re happy to have as many tourists as we can get in this little town.”

Nearly 25 miles away outside Bloomington, the colorfully named Hoosier Putt Hole miniature golf course will be open on a day it would normally be closed. The eclipse’s center line intersects four of the 18 holes, and owner Mironda Carpenter sees opportunity in her moon-shadow location. “People will be parking for hours, and they’ll be looking for something to do,” she says.

Elsewhere in Monroe County, the scenery along the center line changes from putting green to forest green, falling across trails, backroads, and trees in Morgan-Monroe State Forest. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources plans eclipse events at many other properties, but not this one, says Marty Benson, assistant director of communications. Regardless, he says, people are welcome to come to the forest and enjoy their own watching party.

In a Franklin business district surrounding U.S. 31, the Interchurch Food Pantry of Johnson County won’t even try to open April 8. “The timing couldn’t be worse,” says executive director Carol Phipps, noting that the pantry’s usual hours of noon to 3 p.m. would run smack-dab into the 3:05 p.m. start of the eclipse.

Meanwhile, in Shelby County, the center line intersects parking lots at Triton Central High School and Middle School. Accordingly, the school system has declared an e-learning day, and as for eclipse viewing from the parking lots, “the campus will be completely closed to the public for the entirety of April 8.”

Knightstown will benefit from maximum totality, but the mother- and-daughter proprietors of Timeless Furnishings and Itty Bitty Bakery—who share a downtown building on the center line—initially wondered “how big a deal this would be,” says mom Diana Eyster. They plan to open on a usual day off, with daughter Ashley Tunny pledging to prepare baked goods reflecting the cosmic theme of the day.

Finally, if you consider the solar eclipse a miracle of creation, you have to admire the Creator’s sense of irony. When the moon throws shade on Randolph County, the last stretch before Ohio, it will achieve longest totality in that area over a portion of EDP Renewables’ Riverstart project—Indiana’s largest solar farm. The entire solar farm will go lunar as the zone of totality engulfs the county, spurring the office joke that the eclipse is “four minutes we won’t be making any money.”