After months and years of planning to host thousands of visitors for a total solar eclipse, the event was over in less than three minutes.
Despite that, community leaders are continuing to analyze plans and programs for the eclipse to learn what went right, what could have been better and what else could have been done, all with an eye toward bringing many visitors back to the region.
“From the positive responses I got from visitors, it bodes well for repeat visits bot for the short term and for seven years down the road,” said Carbondale Economic Development Director Steve Mitchell.
Seven years from now is already on Mitchell’s radar because that’s when another total solar eclipse cuts through Southern Illinois in April of 2024 and features more than four minutes of totality.
“I think people will be back,” he said.
Mitchell and other Carbondale business leaders have already held some post-eclipse meetings and are planning what he calls a “thank you reception and forum,” for downtown businesses to get feedback on the weekend.
“From my perspective, it’s hard to know yet what was right and what wasn’t,” he said. “We want to gather that from our businesses not only for the next eclipse, but for the next week, next month and next year. I’d like to build on what we’ve done so that we can leverage relationships and positive impressions to benefit us all,” he says.
He said he hopes to use the eclipse as a catalyst for more events and celebrations that will bring people to the community and to Southern Illinois, using what organizers have learned from the influx of 50,000 visitors.
Meghan Cole, Executive Director of Carbondale Main Street, an organization that promotes the city’s downtown business and organizes a variety of city-based events, said it’s important to gather as much feedback as possible regarding the eclipse and archive plans and notes before 2024.
“This year, we looked for experts to bring in to tell us what to expect and we couldn’t find any. There was no eclipse playbook,” she said. “I expect that prior to 2024, other communities will be calling us; we’ll be the experts.”