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EDITORIAL: Let local light shine on the eclipse

Feb. 8—An estimated 130,000 people will travel to the Madison County area for the total solar eclipse on April 8.

The visitors will basically double the county's population, and lots of folks will all be arriving and leaving in a compressed time frame.

The eclipse will begin around 3 p.m. that day and last about four minutes. It's a short show, but it's a celestial phenomenon you won't want to miss. You'll also want to be careful, as always, not to look at the sun unless you're wearing special glasses.

To fully capitalize on this once-in-a-lifetime event, planning is the key — for residents and for local communities.

It's an opportunity for businesses and communities to showcase their attributes. It's a chance to show tens of thousands that Madison County and its cities and towns are great places to visit — and would be great places to live and do business, as well.

We want the eclipse crowd, when it leaves, to remember not only the awesome experience of viewing a total eclipse, something that happens around here about once every 1,000 years, but to look back fondly on the place they visited and the people they met.

The state of Indiana and communities in the 51 counties where the total eclipse will be seen expect to benefit from the influx of as many as 600,000 total tourists, which would make the eclipse the largest single-day tourism event in the state's history.

The visitors will spend money on gas, food and other items while they're here, combining for a financial windfall. In 2017, a total solar eclipse spurred about $269 million in spending in South Carolina and about $177 million in Wyoming.

Here in Madison County, officials are reporting that nearly all local hotel rooms have been booked two months ahead of the eclipse.

The Madison County Chamber, the Anderson Madison County Visitors Bureau, the City of Anderson and Anderson Municipal Airport will combine to host a watch party, including a DJ and food trucks, at the airport.

Local officials are also developing plans to try to alleviate traffic snarls that could develop as visitors get in to and out of town.

All the trouble will be well worth it, both from a local economic perspective and from a purely experiential standpoint.

Ball State University professors gave a preview of the eclipse this week and talked about the weird impact of the world going dark in the middle of the day.

"Insects that normally don't sing during the daytime will start singing, " explained Tom McConnell, professor of science education in BSU's biology department.

"Birds that normally go to roost at night, they'll be flying around, they'll change their song to an evening song and head for their roosts."

Clearly, April 8 will be a day like no other in the Madison County area. Let's make the most of it.