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Carbondale anticipating major crowds for solar eclipse

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Cities across the country are gearing up for Monday’s solar eclipse – especially those that sit in the path of totality. Carbondale, Illinois is the city where the total eclipse will last the longest and they are getting ready for a big celebration.

Fifteen thousand eyes will be on the eclipse at Saluki Stadium on the campus of Southern Illinois University -- along with many more around the world who will be watching a live stream from NASA.

That’s just one of many ways this city is celebrating this rare event in the sky.

Even after two years of working and planning Cinnamon Smith was hard at work again first thing Sunday morning.

The Executive Director of Carbondale tourism is making sure the thousands of people expected to descend on Carbondale will stay hydrated in the 90 degree heat.

“We cannot determine the amount of people who are truly coming so everything has been in flux,” said Smith. “It’s not like planning for a wedding where you have 600 people coming and you know you have to feed 600 people.”

Marjorie Rector is one of the vendors trying to meet that tough task. Her crew was out grilling up food in the early morning hours, ahead of the crowds.

“We’ve been prepping for days," said Rector. “We did about 600lbs of onions about 600lbs of potatoes and lemons.“

Rector drove in from Sesser, Illinois about 40 miles outside of Carbondale to take advantage of the crowds looking to celebrate this once in a lifetime event.

“We live in a very depressed area so it will boost the economy,” said Rector. “I hear all the motels are full, all the campgrounds are full. There’s no vacancies anywhere so it’s a shot in the arm for this part of the country.”

“We have estimated that the direct spending impact could be around $7.9 million and the indirect could be easily double that. I haven’t seen anything like it, “ said Smith. “Not in this town. Not in my lifetime.”

Not only will the city benefit this year, Carbondale sits in the path of totality once again when another solar eclipse crosses the country in 2024. Organizers are calling this weekend just one big dress rehearsal.

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