It’s show time. After all the waiting, it’s finally here.

Of course, we’re talking about the eclipse. We’ve been waiting a long time for this day — and everyone in Southern Illinois has been working hard to put our best collective foot forward as an expected 200,000 people descend on our region.

We were blessed with the good fortune of being in the path of totality for two solar eclipses — the one that will darken our skies tomorrow, and another in 2024. In fact, Southern Illinois is the eclipse crossroads of America. The paths of the two eclipses cross at a single point right here in our backyard.

The metaphorical heavens gave us the opportunity of a lifetime. This region needs it, and it's time to strut our stuff.

And now, the eyes of the world are upon us. Perhaps you’ve already met a visitor from across the country, or even across the globe. World renowned scientists are here. National news outlets are here.

For the past year, we’ve known this day has been coming. Communities all over Southern Illinois have been getting ready to host the hoard of thousands that will descend on the region.

We are all working incredibly hard to pull this thing off, to show the thousands of visitors who will visit our region just what we’re made of. We’re going to show visitors why Southern Illinois is a fantastic place to live, work and play. After all, all of us decided for one reason or another to make our homes here. We are our region’s best advocates.

Police officers and first responders have known for months they would be working all weekend. Businesses have applied fresh coats of paint to make a good first impression and have extended hours to meet demand. Bartenders, cashiers, servers and managers are pulling doubles and skipping days off to serve the hungry and thirsty masses. City officials, university officials and tourism officials have worked tirelessly to keep visitors and locals impressed and entertained.

Color us impressed and entertained. We almost felt overwhelmed at the choices of fun things to do this weekend. Driving around Carbondale on Friday, before the wave of eclipse visitors really started, we admired freshly-trimmed lawns, clean and neat storefronts, the newly paved walkway along The Strip in Carbondale.

If you’re out there enjoying the entertainment offerings this weekend, be sure to say thanks. Be grateful for the crowds, and the fact that so many people are here to have a nice time in our home. Don’t forget to tip your bartenders. Say thank you to a volunteer, who you may see in downtown Carbondale wearing bright green T-shirts. And on Monday, don’t forget to look up and take it all in.

We can’t stress this enough — take it all in. It’s not every day that Southern Illinois is in the world’s spotlight. It’s not every day that we get a chance to show the world what we’re all about.

And on Tuesday, when the crowds go and it’s back to business as usual, take a deep breath, and relax.

Until we do it all again in seven years, that is.

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