The Perryville 2024 Solar Eclipse Experience

I have said before that total solar eclipses are not rare. One happens somewhere in the world approximately every eighteen months and any location on earth can expect to experience a total solar eclipse anywhere between 350-425 years. What is rare is that Perry County, Missouri has experienced two total solar eclipses in less than seven years. That is very rare! We experienced the 2017 total solar eclipse with 2 minutes 40 seconds of totality on August 21, 2017, which brought 17,800+ visitors from thirty-six states and seventeen countries doubling the population of Perry County. The United States had not witnessed a total solar eclipse since 1979 and Missouri had not had the shadow of the moon cross its state since 1869. This meant that thousands of people had no idea what to expect or how to plan for the celestial event. Perry County was in the cross hairs of both the 2017 and the 2024 total solar eclipses that scientists and astronomers were predicting and making plans for many experiments and research projects collecting valuable data about our sun that they will be able to study for many years. We conducted multiple outreach programs educating our community on what a total solar eclipse was and how they could learn from it and enjoy their time in the shadow of the moon. We taught about the sun, the moon, the weather, winds, clouds, animal, birds, and insect behavior during totality. It truly was a universal event.

Preparing our community for the next total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, was a little different in that we did not need as much education or outreach in our area. People still remembered the 2017 eclipse and all the excitement it created. We followed much the same plan as we had in 2017 for our weekend event itinerary because it proved to be successful for us. We planned a three-day weekend of events including a mobile planetarium, hot air balloon show/glow, 5K glow run/walk, silent disco, foam party, live music, food trucks, and tours of all our museums and natural areas. We purchased Back-in-Black themed t-shirts and stickers. We had glow in the dark beverage cups for our music and outdoor events. We had glow swag for our nighttime events, and we purchased 25,000 pairs of eclipse glasses. Although there were many farm and house viewing parties planned by local residents with extended family and friends there were also dedicated viewing sites planned by the Perry County Heritage Tourism for visitors traveling into our area to witness the last total solar eclipse the United States would see for a long time. We were planning for two kinds of visitors. Visitors who had witnessed the 2017 eclipse and were committed to see the 2024 eclipse bringing friends and family with them. The other was those who thought the 2017 eclipse was not going to be as exciting as it was and chose not to go out of their way to experience it. These folks are on the eclipse bandwagon this time around! Perryville had three public viewing destinations: The Bank of Missouri Soccer Park, Perryville City Park, and the Perryville Regional Airport. After experiencing yet another successful total solar eclipse of 4 minutes 5 seconds in the most eastern part of the county including Altenburg and Frohna and 3 minutes 57 seconds within the city of Perryville we documented that 44.7K visitors came to Perryville and a whopping 56.2K visitors came to Perry County over the three-day weekend. Many of them came here on April 8th for the main celestial event. They came from 49 states: Washington, California, Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Maine, Florida, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Noth Dakota, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Alaska, Alabama, Delaware, Connecticut, Ohio, Idaho, Nevada, Hawaii, West Virginia, and of course all across Missouri. The only two missing states were Vermont and New Hampshire. We also documented twelve countries that traveled from afar to experience the total solar eclipse. Those visitors were from Canada, Scottland, Chile, South Africa, London UK, Peru, Mexico, Denmark, Argentina, Germany, Japan, and Ukraine. It was amazing to see so many people from so many places, young and old, families, friends, students, to hear multiple dialect of languages all chatting about the same experience, the same challenges of getting within the path, all gathered and united for one event that lasted for such a short time was as amazing as the moon covering the sun and neither will be forgotten soon.

If you are waiting for the next total solar eclipse to cross the United States you will have to wait until August 22, 2044. The next total solar eclipse to cross Missouri will not happen until February 25, 2343.

In the meantime, you can visit two reminders of the eclipses in Perry County anytime you would like. Located on the Perry County Courthouse lawn is a special sundial commemorating both total solar eclipses of 2017 and 2024. We also built a pair of oversized eclipse glasses currently at the Perry Park Center. Soon they will be placed along the city walking path in Miget Park once the sidewalk is laid. These glasses are equipped with certified eclipse viewing mylar making them safe for solar viewing. Along with this educational component they also have statistics and information on them pertaining to the 2017 and 2024 eclipses to cross Perry County.