Eclipse Over Springfield: Tourists expected to turn out for local celestial celebration

Clark County is expected to welcome thousands of visitors as a total solar eclipse darkens the sky on April 8. Just how many is anyone’s guess.

Estimates range from 10,000 to 50,000 solar sightseers, says Chris Schutte, vice president of destination marketing and communications for the Greater Springfield Partnership.

A number of local hotels are already sold out, with many visitors arriving the night before, he says. 

“Everything from porta-johns to food, we’re trying to plan on the high side,” Schutte says. 

Chris Schutte, Greater Springfield Partnership.Visit Greater Springfield is a host of the Eclipse Over Springfield celebration from noon to 4 p.m. April 8 at the National Road Commons Park, located downtown at 21 Mill Run Place. Food trucks and vendors will be present, along with live music, lawn games for children and eclipse viewing glasses.

The top deck of the parking garage near the Commons will be closed to vehicles to allow for additional viewing, but the remainder of the garage and plenty of surface lots will allow for nearby parking, Schutte says.

Clark County falls within the line of totality, and the total eclipse will occur over Springfield for about 2 minutes  and 37 seconds beginning at 3:10 p.m.

Visitors and locals can expect delays on the roadways – including Interstate 70 – although how many there are may depend on the final number of visitors. A cloudy day, for example, could make a difference of thousands of people.

Schutte says he has fielded calls from people from at least six other states who have chosen Springfield as their home base during the eclipse.

“We know it’s going to draw tourists,” he says.

The question is not only how many, but also how to introduce them to Springfield and Clark County’s other attractions, he says.

Downtown could get a boost in visitors that day, Schutte says. Mother Stewart’s Brewing is scheduled to be open, along with other restaurants and vendors. Champion City Guide & Supply also will be selling eclipse shirts, and other downtown retailers are encouraged to mark the occasion.

Some visitors may choose to view the eclipse from other locations within Clark County, such as Buck Creek State Park, he says. A feature at also is promoting other things to see and do in the area.

If visitors come to Springfield once, Schutte, says, chances are they can be persuaded to return for other attractions like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Westcott House or the Hartman Rock Garden.

Local organizations have been preparing for and discussing different scenarios regarding the eclipse for many months, Schutte says. City, county, police and fire departments and others are treating the possibilities very seriously.

“We have to plan as though it is going to be very populated,” Schutte says.

Clark County Public Information Officer Michael Cooper says it is difficult to predict what will happen on April 8 – including the weather. Officials are advising people to charge their cellphones, avoid unnecessary errands that day, fill their tanks with gas, and prepare for the possibility of being stuck in a standstill on the roads.

“It’s hard to tell what’s going to happen that day, so you have to be prepared for everything,” he says.

An eclipse information guide created by the Clark County Emergency Management Agency advises that cell service also could be overwhelmed or limited that day and urges people to develop a communication plan in case service is lost. Visitors may find long lines for restaurants, fuel and supplies.

Normal traffic patterns could change, and delays are to be expected, according to the local EMA. 

What’s more, cloudy weather could cause potential visitors to change their plans.

“We just hope people are patient and able to enjoy it,” Cooper says.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.