Countdown to 2024 eclipse spectacle begins
A large swath of Indiana will offer optimum viewing of the 2024 solar eclipse, and some tourism officials say more than a million visitors could be heading to the Hoosier State to witness the celestial show. On Monday, April 8, 2024, at approximately 3:05 p.m. ET, the total solar eclipse will cast its shadow on Indiana, plunging millions of people into midday darkness for about four minutes. Tourism departments from throughout the state are implementing plans to take advantage of the star gazers.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Visit Indy Marketing Manager Becca Schmiegel says Indianapolis is marketing itself as the “Midwest Capital of the Eclipse.”
“We can expect around a million visitors to come in. And that’s based off cities of similar size in the past, the total eclipse that happened in 2017,” said Schmiegel. “Looking at their estimates and their numbers, we can estimate that we’ll see between a million to million and a half people come into the city.”
Visit Indy began planning for the 2024 eclipse about 18 months ago. Schmiegel says the organization started thinking about how to gather community partners to leverage Indy as the ideal viewing destination in the Midwest.
“We’re truly trying to make this a weekend long event. We have packages with local hotels that we’ve started putting together. Local museums and institutions will be doing programming and activities related to astronomy and astrology to make sure that we get everybody interested something to do while they wait for the eclipse,” said Schmiegel.
On Saturday, Visit Indy launched its eclipse website, beginning the one-year countdown. The site will help visitors make plans, book hotel rooms, and find activities associated with eclipse celebrations. One of those events will take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“It’s a once in a lifetime experience, and there’s no better place to enjoy it than at the Racing Capital of the World,” states the IMS website.
NASA has named it an official viewing site, just one of three designations in the path of the solar show. The space agency will broadcast live from IMS on the day of the event. The racing venue could see 300,000 people enter its gates.
“It’s such a unique facility, ‘Home to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’ and now it’s going to be the greatest spectacle for the sky,” said Schmiegel.
The eclipse will be seen from Texas to Maine with Indiana right at the crossroads for observers. It will provide 100% coverage for people in central and southern Indiana. People in northern Indiana will enjoy about 90% coverage.
Indiana Destination Development Corp. Secretary and CEO Elaine Bedel said the eclipse provides a rare opportunity to showcase the state.
“I think it’s really exciting. It’s an opportunity for us to show our state off because this will become a bucket list item for a lot of people who don’t necessarily live in Indiana,” said Bedel. “They’re going to want to come to where they can see that total eclipse. And we want to be ready for them.”
Visit Indiana, which is overseen by the IDDC, has also developed a website that will serve as a clearinghouse of information for visitors. It will showcase places that visitors can safely stop to watch the event. Bedel says the eclipse will give smaller communities a rare opportunity to showcase what they offer.
“Some of the small towns will be perfect places to find that open spot where you’ll be able to view it without any obstructions, any big buildings in your way, and then enjoy the hospitality that’s there as well,” said Bedel.
Bedel says the IDDC is working with other state agencies, including the Department of Natural Resources, the Indiana Department of Transportation and Indiana State Police, to link to resources to help visitors have a positive visit to Indiana.
“We’re going to prepare for maximum. We want to make sure that we’re ready for it, and that all of our destinations around the state are ready as well. That’s why we’re kind of doing this statewide outreach,” said Bedel.
In less than a year, when the event begins, it will mark the first time in 819 years that a total solar eclipse has been visible from Indianapolis. It won’t happen again for another 129 years.
“This is going to be truly epic, a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is it,” said Schmiegel.