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Solar Eclipse Spectators Could Double Population of MO Town

Cosmopolitan Park in Columbia, Mo., is the site of the city's eclipse celebration Mon., Aug. 21. (Columbia Parks and Recreation)
Cosmopolitan Park in Columbia, Mo., is the site of the city's eclipse celebration Mon., Aug. 21. (Columbia Parks and Recreation)
June 30, 2017

COLUMBIA, Mo. – It takes a sizable attraction to double the population of a city in a single day - something big enough to, say, blot out the sun. But that's exactly what Columbia, Mo., officials are anticipating for the total solar eclipse.

The city is in the ideal line of the eclipse path, which makes it a focal destination.

Megan McConachie, strategic communications manager for the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, says planning has been a formidable task, as a half-dozen government agencies coordinate traffic, safety, crowd control and lots of volunteer staffing.

"We could definitely have up to 100,000 extra people here in Columbia on August 21," she says.

McConachie adds local hotels are expected to reach capacity soon.

The path of the eclipse across the U.S. extends from Oregon to South Carolina. Such major Missouri cities as St. Louis and Kansas City aren't directly on that path, but they'll still experience darkness on the afternoon of Aug. 21 for about one minute.

McConachie says Columbia is almost perfectly located for the full effect of the eclipse.

"Columbia really experiences over two-and-a-half minutes of totality, so that makes it a really ideal location to come to," she explains. "We have the infrastructure to support a lot of people, and we also have events planned to commemorate the occasion."

The city is hosting what it's calling the "Totality Music Fest," as well as a pre-eclipse bike ride and a pre-eclipse run.

Spectators are advised to make use of free eclipse glasses if they want to safely watch the partial stages of the eclipse. And, of course, Show Me Totality merchandise is already up for sale.

Kevin Patrick Allen/Shaine Smith, Public News Service - MO