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Paducah Offering ‘Natural Riverfront’ Approach for Total Solar Eclipse Visitors

Matt Markgraf, WKMS

Tens of thousands of visitors are expected to descend on far west Kentucky on August 21 seeking a prime seat for the total solar eclipse.

The eclipse will cross from coast to coast and reach its longest duration of totality in the southern Illinois and west Kentucky region.

Paducah will experience total darkness for two minutes and 19 seconds. The city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau is hoping tourists will be drawn to the city’s riverfront for a picturesque view. Executive Director Mary Hammond said Paducah is placing an emphasis on local shops and restaurants.

"We're not bringing food trucks and special vendors down into the area. This is very natural on the riverfront. Hopefully people will take advantage of it," Hammond said.

Hammond said people who don't want to go to a big city might be drawn instead to Paducah and the surrounding rural area where there won't be as much commercial lighting. "They don't want to go to a big city where there's so much light that you can't even tell how dark it is, these people are coming to western Kentucky and I think they will be pleased with what they experience."

She said there is no way of knowing how many people will come to the region. So far, Paducah hotels are around 30% booked. "We're not fully by any means, but it's coming along," she said.

Locations holding viewing events include WKCTC, the River Discovery Center and McCracken County Public Library. There are also events leading up to the eclipse involving the National Quilt Museum, a concert on the riverfront and the farmers market.

Hammond said CVB and other agencies in the city will be offering eclipse glasses, which are required for viewing the eclipse as one otherwise risks severe eye damage.

Hopkinsville is preparing for 50,000 visitors. Activities coincide with the Summer Salute and nearby Little Green Men Days festivals.

According to the State Journal-Register, Carbondale, Illinois is also planning for 55,000 people.

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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