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How Cities Around the U.S. Are Celebrating the Eclipse

I’ve never before heard the music of the Cleveland Orchestra. I’ve certainly never heard them perform the fourth movement from Motzart’s Symphony No. 41—better known as “Jupiter.” But that will change on April 7, when I join tens of thousands of others at the city’s Great Lakes Science Center where the orchestra will be featured as just one part of a three-day festival built around the next day’s solar eclipse, which will reach totality over Cleveland just after 3:13 p.m. CDT.

On April 8, the eclipse’s path of totality will cross 15 states and hundreds of cities and towns from southwest Texas to northeastern Maine before passing into Canada, and will be visible to an estimated 31 million Americans. That’s a lot of people who will take in the great sky show, and local communities are gearing up—and, in many cases, cashing in. Up to four million people are expected to travel to towns within the band of totality, with airline tickets, hotel accommodations, meals, and other travel-related expenses expected to inject up to $1 billion into the U.S. economy, according to Forbes.

All by itself, Johnson County, Ind., is expecting to reap up to $25 million before the event is over, with some hotels spiking their prices to $1,000 per night. The Niagara Falls region is looking for a smaller but still considerable $1 million haul. Arkansas is not projecting just how big a payday April 8 will be, but it does expect 1.5 million visitors—briefly increasing the state’s population of 3 million by 50%. In an official statement released in December 2023, the state legislature called the eclipse “the largest tourism event in Arkansas history.”

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Preparing for this kind of influx doesn’t just earn money but costs it too.. In New York State, Erie County is buying $100,000 worth of eclipse glasses to help protect visitors’ eyes as the sun slowly vanishes and reappears. In the state’s Chautauqua County, the legislature is allocating $200,000 to boost the availability of EMS equipment, as well as portable cell towers, highway message boards, and traffic flares. Ohio is spending $1 million to boost first responder and emergency management capability.

It is the festivities surrounding the eclipse—the concerts and barbecues and planetarium shows and science lectures and more—that local governments are counting on as much as anything else to bring out the skywatchers and tourists. Here is just some of what you can expect in various venues.

Ohio

The Cleveland Orchestra is not remotely the only attraction the city is planning for its eclipse celebration. Also on offer will be an international film festival, including the movie Small Town Universe, about a town in West Virginia where cell phones and WiFi are prohibited, lest they interfere with the nearby radio telescope observing the heavens. Alongside the film festival will be a watch party on the grounds of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, as well as outdoor food offerings by such local favorites as Betty’s Bomb Ass Burgers, The Proper Pig Smokehouse, and Wack-E-Wontons. In Dayton, the local Philharmonic will perform and the Cricket Holler Boy Scout Camp will hold an open educational session about eclipses. In Columbus, there will be a watch party at the Columbus Center of Science and Industry, a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a Columbus Zoo and Aquarium “Solar-Bration.” All Ohio eclipse events are listed here.

Texas

Nearly 12.8 people in Texas across a 772-km (480-mi.) line live in the path of the eclipse, and they’ll have plenty to see. NASA’s Space Center Houston will host a watch party, a performance by the Houston Youth Chamber Orchestra, and a real-time mural painting inspired by the phases of the eclipse by celebrated Houston artist GONZO247. Camping packages are offered in the city of Burnet, northwest of Austin. In Austin proper, which lies on the edge of the eclipse path and thus will see a relatively brief one minute and 44 seconds of totality, residents and guests will make the most of what they get, with a watch fest at the Living Tree Amphitheater, a “Celestial Celebration” at the William Chris Vineyards, and a viewing party at the two-mile-long Buchanan Dam. All Texas eclipse events can be found here.

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Missouri

Missouri will get a generous four minutes and 12 seconds of totality across some parts of the southeastern corner of the state. Twenty state parks and historic sites are in the path of totality, several of which are open for camping. Dozens more lie just outside the fully shadowed band, ranging from a low of 84.9% totality to a high of greater than 99.95%. The Bootheel Youth Museum in the city of Malden is hosting a viewing party to take advantage of the somewhat abbreviated three minutes and 18 seconds of totality it will experience, while Arcadia Valley—home to the communities of Ironton, Pilot Knob, and Arcadia, as well as the highest elevation in the state—will hold a two-day festival, including live music, a craft fair, library educational sessions, and a beer garden. In case you needed a reminder to bring your eclipse glasses, Arcadia has dubbed its festivities “Blinded By the Light.” All Missouri eclipse events are listed here.

Illinois

Like Missouri, Illinois will experience totality mostly in its southeast corner, with bigger burgs like Chicago, Springfield, Peoria, and Champaign missing the best part of the show. But there are plenty of places within the shadow to witness the complete eclipse. Southern Illinois University (SIU), in Carbondale is on the centerline of the eclipse and in store for four minutes and nine seconds of totality. In partnership with NASA and Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, SIU will host an eclipse watching event in its Saluki Stadium, which will include live entertainment, telescope feeds from across the country projected on the stadium’s scoreboard, and a guided narration in the run up to the eclipse led by astronomer and physicist Michelle Nichols, of the Adler. The city of Mt. Vernon will host a three-day series of events at its Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, which will include hands-on activities and eclipse-related story time for pre-K and school age children, as well as a piano concerto that will include a performance of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” Marion, Ill. is offering a weekend retreat at SIU’s Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center and a watch party at Mtn Dew Park, home of the collegiate summer baseball league’s Thrillville Thrillbillies. All Illinois eclipse events are here.

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Maine

All of Maine will experience at least some of the eclipse. The northeast town of Houlton is the last place in the U.S. to experience totality, which will commence at 3:32:05 p.m. local time and end at 3:35:25 p.m. The town will be home to one of the most historically-rooted events, with a small stack of rocks, reminiscent of ancient stone cairns, already assembled on the lawn of the town’s Unitarian Universalist Church. The cairn is intended to be a gathering spot for eclipse watchers who are invited to add their own stones to the pile. The church will also host an eclipse fair that will feature Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga, and meditation, as well as sound healing, drumming, dancing, and “a planetary moment of silence.” Elsewhere, Maine’s Audubon Center will invite attendees to twin watch parties, one at the organization’s Fields Pond Center, outside of Bangor, and one down the coast at Gilsland Farm Center in Falmouth. NASA will also co-host a watch event at the University of Maine’s Versant Power Astronomy Center. All Maine eclipse events can be found here.

Other states experiencing totality and holding eclipse events are Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire. All of this makes for plenty of opportunities in plenty of places to take in an event that won’t occur again in the contiguous U.S. until 2044.

Write to Jeffrey Kluger at jeffrey.kluger@time.com.