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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

Hoosiers prepare to host total solar eclipse


This story was written by Leslie Bonilla Muñiz. It was originally published by the Indiana Capital Chronicle here: https://indianacapitalchronicl...

The day after the August 2017 total solar eclipse spanned the country, Ginger Murphy got a phone call. The Chicago-area caller wanted to reserve 40 rooms at a Hoosier state park lodge for an eclipse due to darken skies above Indiana nearly seven years later.

“I went, ‘Huh?'” said Murphy, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) deputy director for state parks. “At that point, we weren’t even thinking about it.”

But that’s changed.

State and local entities alike have since joined forces to pull out all the stops for an eclipse — featuring a staggering 4 minutes of totality — that could bring up to 600,000 people to Indiana.

 A map of the path of totality. (Indiana University Center for Rural Engagement)

States in the path of previous eclipses told Indiana officials they should expect the April 8 eclipse to be the “single largest tourist event to ever happen in the state,” said Amy Howell, the director of tourism, marketing and communications for the Indiana Destination Development Corporation (IDDC).

Hoosiers are hosting hundreds of events around the state to mark the astronomical phenomenon, per Howell.

And state park spots, hotels and short-term rentals are filling up.

“My advice is: so many events, a once-in-a-lifetime event. Pack your bags and come to Indiana!” Howell exclaimed.

But not all in Indiana will be outside to see the sky, as state agencies and local schools attempt to accommodate an event that fits less-than-neatly within academic year requirements and construction season.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, and completely blocks the face of the much larger sun. Hoosiers won’t be in another total solar eclipse’s path of totality until 2099.

Marketing Indiana

State agencies for security, law enforcement, roads, natural resources and tourism began planning for the eclipse about two years ago, according to Howell.

For its part, IDDC expects to spend about $100,000 on digital advertising to out-of-state residents. The agency conducted pushes at a year out and six months out, and will sustain a third push from two months out through the day-of.

“We’re primarily in like a Chicago — who’s not gonna get any of the eclipse — a Louisville, a St. Louis. These are markets that are familiar with Indiana because we do our other seasonal campaigns (there),” Howell said.

She wants to capitalize on the event by getting newcomers into Indiana, and hopefully back for future visits.

IDDC has collected information on more than 600 events around the state, she said: partly to help state security and police monitoring and partly to offer visitors a complete menu of options.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for example, was selected as a National Air and Space Administration (NASA) broadcast location. Now it’s got a packed schedule featuringmultiple astronauts, IndyCar drivers, NASA officials and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb. The brickyard will also host technical and family-friendly educational programming.

In Bloomington, a solar eclipse committee with police, fire, business, university and other participants is overseeing a week of festivities: eclipse-themed trivia, glow-in-the-dark putt-putt, a showing of the space-related film Hidden Figures, and more.

“We want people to come into Bloomington, stay for a couple of days, enjoy their time and return,” said Jordan Smith, a leisure marketing manager at Visit Bloomington.

Discover Boone County says it’s inviting guests to “Get Mooned in Boone” with a treasure hunt, a free ’80s concert and other activities.

Seeing the eclipse

Indiana is highlighting its DNR properties as prime viewing real estate for Hoosiers and others that live outside the path of totality. The path includes a whopping 54 state parks, nature preserves, reservoirs and more, according to Murphy.

The properties are hosting dozens of events, from eclipse litter bag workshops and t-shirt how-tos to scary stories and “crepuscular creatures.”

Murphy’s agency created a table of locations — split by viewing, lodging and parking options and complete with estimated eclipse phase times — to help interested visitors plan.

It’s easier to see the eclipse in open spaces with fewer leafy trees, Murphy observed.

“There’s an effect that happens during … totality where it looks like you have a sunset all the way around, in a 360-degree circle. So an open space is a great spot to potentially see that,” she said.

 The Greatest Spectacles will be given to anyone attending events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Courtesy Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

But many parks in the path are already booked out, with visitors from 44 states and even Canada, according to Murphy. She said the four inns in the zone are full and so are cabins. Campgrounds at 16 properties are sold out, but those at another five locations are between 70% and 90% of capacity.

That may or may not include her first caller, back in 2017. DNR begins booking at two years out, not seven.

Gates for day-of visitors open at 7 a.m. and close when parking fills up, even to those on bikes or on foot — so get in early.

“Get your spot set up and take a walk, or just enjoy the day, and be ready for the eclipse in the afternoon,” Murphy said.

But to safely view the eclipse, purchase glasses or solar filters compliant with the ISO 12312-2 international standard, such as those produced by manufacturers on a list by the American Astrological Society. Looking without protection will cause serious eye injuries.

Business as usual for others?

Not everyone will be free to enjoy the festivities.

Indiana lawmakers were steps away from authorizing an eclipse day waiver for schools, who must otherwise meet a 180-day academic year requirement. But they tweezed that language out on the eve of the session’s end.

Fort Wayne Community Schools’ board, for example, announced classes were cancelled for the eclipse — then reversed hours later when officials realized the waiver died, the Journal Gazette reported.

 A family wearing eclipse glasses watches the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017.
(From NASA/Shannon Reed)

Schools with room in their calendars may extend their spring breaks, take the day off, or let students out early, according to an October Department of Education memo. Others can hold virtual classes or put on eclipse events during in-person instruction.

Construction workers, however, might be available for viewing after the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) asked contractors and local laborers to halt work for the eclipse, according to KPC News.

That’s because INDOT and Indiana State Police expect congestion and delays from the influx of eclipse visitors. The request, from midnight on April 7 to sunrise on April 9, could delay projects.

DNR recommends that eclipse viewers fill up their gas tanks and pack plenty of snacks, water, first aid supplies and entertainment sources to ease long waits in parks or in traffic. That’s in addition to other tips listed on the agency’s website.

Despite the chaos, Hoosier officials want residents and tourists alike to enjoy themselves.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a lot of people,” Murphy said. “… We want people to have a great time and we’re looking forward to seeing them.”

WRTV is maintaining a list of school solar eclipse approaches.
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