Presque Isle could see 40,000 visitors for the 2024 solar eclipse
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Presque Isle is preparing for a large influx of visitors that could number 40,000 to see the April 2024 solar eclipse.
The city has formed an eclipse committee and is creating events around the celestial event, along with plans to minimize traffic.
The solar eclipse will move in an arc, passing across upstate New York into Maine with the full eclipse passing over Presque Isle on April 8, 2024, at approximately 3:32 p.m., according to the eclipse simulator on the educational website eclipse2024.org.
“We are the largest city in the viewing path here in Maine and of course we have large hotel properties and the only international airport, so we want to use those to our advantage and attract more economic impact,” said Kim Smith, the city’s resource development and public information officer during April’s city council meeting.
Viewing areas will include the General Aviation Terminal yard, Gentile Hall parking lot at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Riverside Park, the Northern Maine Fairgrounds and possibly the Aroostook Centre Mall yard.
Around 500 letters have been sent out to businesses with flyers being distributed at public events in Presque Isle, Smith said.
A website for the solar eclipse event in Presque Isle is being created by Jacob Bradley, city hall student intern, that will include a list of hotels, restaurants and things to do throughout the city while waiting for the eclipse.
It would be ideal for the Presque Isle Inn and Convention Center to be up and running for the eclipse, Smith said. While at a tourism conference in Bangor, she sat next to the inn’s realtor and shared information about the upcoming eclipse.
“Very many communities [in 2017] enjoyed a significant influx of tourists and eclipse chasers and people who were interested in seeing what’s going on,” said Dan McGlaun, who manages eclipse2024.org.
Visitors stayed in hotels and bought food in small communities like Casper, Wyoming, he said. Some die-hard eclipse chasers will probably head down to Mexico for a better chance of seeing the full eclipse without the risk of not seeing it due to New England’s inclement weather.
The more a community does to attract eclipse viewers, the more likely they are to get visitors, McGlaun said.
The city is working on an emergency plan that includes coordinating with the Presque Isle Police and Fire departments, Smith said. They are also seeking help from Border Patrol to handle Canadian visitors that might come to the viewing events.
Local libraries will acquire more children’s books about solar eclipses through the Wintergreen Arts Center creative preschool program called Under the Willow Tree. Pine Street Elementary Library and The Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library have indicated interest in making contributions to provide more learning opportunities on solar eclipses.
The Presque Isle Kiwanis Club and the Presque Isle Rotary Club expressed an interest in contributing to the eclipse books.
To allow students in on the experience, the city’s eclipse committee contacted SAD 1 to discuss the possibility of holding a remote school day or in-service day, because the eclipse will happen during a weekday afternoon.
Perhaps the biggest challenge will be finding an open campground for visitors coming in with plans to camp, because no facilities are open that early in April, Smith said, adding the solar committee will work on a camping solution.