When owners of Dot Foods were evaluating communities for a new distribution center, a deciding factor in choosing Cambridge City’s Gateway Industrial Park was a positive interaction with a resident at a gas station.
They appreciated the resident’s true Hoosier hospitality while answering their questions, according to Valerie Shaffer, president of Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County.
Shaffer and other leaders urge businesses and organizations to take that story to heart as they prepare for an influx of as many as 100,000 tourists in April 2024.
They say there’s potential for significant economic impacts, both immediate and longer term.
Many of the county’s hotels are already sold out and all short-term rentals are booked, showing the eagerness of eclipse followers to gather in the path of totality.
Indiana is projected to be the second-most visited state for the April 8, 2024, eclipse, behind Texas.
Hopkinsville, Kentucky, which is comparable in size to Richmond, saw an estimated $28.5 million in economic impact from more than 116,000 visitors during the 2017 eclipse.
Thus, Wayne County’s eclipse task force wants to leave a positive impression with those seeking a prime viewing spot for the eclipse.
“The eclipse event in April presents a great opportunity for us to provide lasting impact and potentially convert visitors to residents if we provide them with an excellent experience,” Shaffer said.
During a July 19 meeting at Indiana University East, dozens of organization and business leaders gathered to learn more about the eclipse’s impact and hear from task force and tourism officials what has been done so far regarding those logistics.
A website, waynecountysolareclipse.com, has been created to provide a one-stop shop of information to potential visitors and residents. Those organizing events that weekend are encouraged to add them to the site or call the tourism bureau at 765-935-8687 for more information.
InfinitPrint Solutions in Richmond partnered with tourism to create an official eclipse logo and a merchandise catalog. One version mentions Wayne County and others are designed for each community.
“We all are a team – it’s not one city that’s going to do better than others,” said Mary Walker, the tourism bureau’s executive director. “We’re all going to experience anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 people in a three- to four-day period.”
Eclipse logos are available for others who want to add it to merchandise. Walker encouraged vendors to consider collaborating to reduce duplication.
Walker said it’s imperative to start proper planning now to minimize chaos surrounding the eclipse and maximize opportunities to end the long weekend with a positive experience for all.
The totality of the eclipse begins at 3:07 p.m. on a Monday, and the task force hopes visitors will come early for a long weekend.
It will last for 4 minutes in Dalton Township in northwest Wayne County, and a few seconds less in surrounding areas. Richmond will be the lowest at 3 minutes and 48.8 seconds.
Wes Tobin, assistant professor of physics at Indiana University East, urged those attending to be prepared for gridlock as people enter and exit, even on a cloudy or rainy day, because the eclipse will still result in darkness that attracts viewers.
During totality, birds return to their nests, nocturnal animals might appear, and temperatures often drop 10 to 20 degrees. Street or parking lights will turn on, so Tobin encouraged those seeking a good celestial viewing spot to avoid areas with that equipment.
Tobin said those planning to sell protective eclipse glasses should find a reputable seller with ISO 12312-2 certification documentation and order them soon. Filters are needed between the sun and all optics, including eyes, glasses, cameras and cell phones.
A version of this article appeared in the July 26 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.