Businesses, cities cashing in on total solar eclipse
Millions of eyes will be fixed on the sky when a total solar eclipse crosses the U.S. in August, and it’s likely many of them will be safely behind the special glasses churned out by a Tennessee company.
American Paper Optics ramped up production for this year’s eclipse and expects to make 50 million paper and plastic eclipse glasses.
John Jerit, the company’s CEO and president, said they began preparing about two years ago. During his almost 27 years making safety glasses, he’s only seen one total solar eclipse, in France in 1999, but will be going to Nashville for this one.
“It’s a life experience,” Jerit said during an interview at his company’s office in the Memphis suburb of Bartlett. “When that two minutes is over, or however long you’ve got, the question that you really want to hear is, ‘When is the next one?”’
His company is one of many businesses - hotels, campgrounds and stores - taking advantage of the total solar eclipse - when the moon passes between Earth and the sun.
The moon’s shadow will fall in a diagonal ribbon across the U.S., from Oregon to South Carolina. The rest of the U.S. will experience a partial eclipse, along with Canada, Central America and a bit of South America.
Cities and towns along the path of totality - where there will be about 2 1/2 minutes of darkness - are gearing up for the crowds. St. Joseph, Missouri, population 76,000, is in a prime location and officials are bracing for tens of thousands of eclipse watchers to descend on the city, said Beth Conway, spokeswoman for the St. Joseph Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The city’s restaurants, gas stations and stores are preparing for the onslaught - the city’s largest arts and music festival with the nickname “Total Eclipse of the Arts” is scheduled on the weekend leading up to the eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21.
“This is essentially our Super Bowl,” Conway said. “If we see anywhere near the amount of people that they’re telling us, it will probably be the biggest event in our history.”
The city has gotten into the act as well, selling eclipse glasses, posters and blue and yellow T-shirts decorated with a drawing of the city’s skyline and an iconic railroad bridge, and with the slogan “Right in the Middle of it All.”
Conway said a benefactor donated 100,000 safety glasses designed for the city and proceeds are going to local museums and charities.
Sales have been “amazing, phenomenal,” she said. “It’s just blown our minds.”