Farmers who live in the path of the total solar eclipse are excited but also a bit anxious about Monday’s big event.
The lineup of the sun, moon and earth is a unique event, which only happens during a new moon and last occurred in the continental U.S. 38 years ago.
The historic event is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people – ranging from curious onlookers and stargazers to scientists – to many rural parts of southern Illinois.
That’s where the path of the total solar eclipse – including the line of totality, where day will turn to night for a few minutes – cuts through the state on its way across the country.
“It’s a unique opportunity and will really be something to see,” said Richard Guebert Jr., Illinois Farm Bureau president, whose farm in Ellis Grove (Randolph County) lies within the path of the eclipse.
Guebert has meetings scheduled, but his wife, Nancy, plans to have family come to the farm for the event.
“Our granddaughters are coming to the house. They’re going to have a picnic on the farm,” Guebert said. “Nancy’s got the (official eclipse-viewing) glasses ready.”
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Gary Tretter, president of Jackson County Farm Bureau who lives near Murphysboro, plans to drive 2 miles to one of his farms for the best view.
Tretter lives near the line of totality, where the largest gatherings of eclipse watchers are expected.
“We’re right in line with it,” he said. “I’ve never been in an area that’s had something like this happen before.”
The eclipse will cut directly across 14 states, from Oregon to South Carolina. It could be one of the most viewed eclipses in history as an estimated 200 million people nationwide live within driving distance of the path of totality.
“There’s supposed to be a lot of people,” Tretter said. “Authorities are telling locals to make sure you’re stocked up on supplies, and they recommend you stay home.”
All paved parking spaces at the Southern Illinois University campus and a ticketed event at Saluki Stadium also sold out. Numerous other viewing events and parties were scheduled across southern Illinois, including the town of Makanda, where mass gatherings were expected near the state’s epicenter of the eclipse. Most hotels and campsites have been sold out for weeks and even months across the region. A few last-minute hotel vacancies were fetching as much as $400 in the eclipse’s path.
“It should be a nice, short-term boost to the local economy,” Guebert said.
Some farmers rented out pastures for viewers to park their cars. But Tretter chose not to open his farm to visitors due to insurance implications. He also postponed the county Farm Bureau board meeting, which usually takes place the third Monday of each month.
The only thing people couldn’t plan for was the weather during today’s eclipse.
“Hopefully, it’s a bright, sunny day (except for a few awe-inspiring minutes),” Guebert added.