CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — The total eclipse coming in August has regional tourism skyrocketing, with many hotels already booked from southern Kentucky to Nashville.

Clarksville, Tennessee, and Hopkinsville, Kentucky, lie along the direct path of the rare, total solar eclipse set for 1:25 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 21.

Nashville, the largest U.S. city in the eclipse’s path, is also getting ready for the event which, at its height, will last a little over two minutes. All of these cities can thank their lucky stars — or at least the sun and moon — as the tourism dollars roll in.

Hotels in Nashville are starting to heavily pre-book.

“As of March 25, we’re at 54 percent occupancy for the night before the eclipse, which is pacing 31 percent ahead of last year,” said Bonna Johnson, spokeswoman for Visit Music City, the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. “The eclipse is clearly having an effect on the hotel market, but we still have plenty of rooms left.”

And there are plenty of events planned.

Metro Nashville Parks is planning public eclipse viewing at Beaman Park, Bells Bend, Cedar Hill Park, Edwin and Percy Warner, Fort Negley, Peeler Park and Shelby Bottoms.

Nashville viewing events are also planned at Adventure Science Center, Bicentennial Mall, First Tennessee Park (Nashville Sounds baseball), and the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere.

This will be the first coast-to-coast eclipse in 98 years, and the first in the continental U.S. since 1978. The eclipse will move across the nation in a 60-mile-wide path that includes northern middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky. For a short time in the middle of the afternoon, the area will plunge into total darkness.

Hopkinsville has the prime spot with two minutes and 40 seconds of total darkness. Clarksville will get two minutes, 17 seconds, and downtown Nashville one minute, 54 seconds. Robertson and Sumner counties may be the best place to be; both will get around two minutes, 30 seconds.

Regional tourism promoters including Theresa Harrington, executive director of Visit Clarksville, an arm of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Economic Development Council, expect a big economic impact.

“Right now, we’ve already got six traveling bus groups staying in Clarksville for the eclipse, plus four other bus groups that are coming into town for the day of the eclipse,” Harrington said. Do the math, and that group package alone brings 500 tourists. While here, they’ll experience other sights and sounds of Clarksville and the surrounding area.

They’ll view the eclipse on the site of Clarksville’s top tourist attraction, Beachaven Vineyards & Winery, near Exit 4 of Interstate 24. “We’re going to make a little party out of it,” Harrington said.

Others will watch the eclipse from several public venues around town, chiefly space set aside in Clarksville parks.

“There are tons of people who will be doing that,” she said, “and I’ve learned this week that Clarksville Regional Airport at Outlaw Field will also be open to the public for the eclipse.”

The height of the eclipse in Clarksville will be brief, about two minutes and 18 seconds. But the moon will actually begin covering the sun about 45 minutes ahead, at 12:45 p.m. The latter phase of the eclipse will continue until around 2:15 p.m.

“For those people who want to come out to watch it, I suggest that they get to their desired spot at least an hour before it happens, just to avoid traffic. We expect people to be parked all along the highways watching it,” Harrington said.

Harrington said many local hotels have already been booked for the eclipse, many in blocks of three-night stays, with prices of up to $600 a night depending on where tourists choose to stay.

At downtown Clarksville’s Riverview Inn, owner Charlsie Hand said their hotel, overlooking the Cumberland Riverwalk, is already sold out.

“We have very high expectations for it, and I know Austin Peay (State University) does as well,” Hand said.

“We have three busloads of visitors coming and a scientist from NASA coming to stay with us who is working in conjunction with APSU to host a seminar,” she said.


Information from: The Leaf-Chronicle, http://www.theleafchronicle.com

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JIMMY SETTLE
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