Hopkinsville is expecting 200,000 eclipse chasers
Aug. 3, 2017 - by Jeffrey Lee Puckett
HOPKINSVILLE, Ky.— Edgar Cayce has been dead since 1945 but still has a say about what goes on in the small Kentucky town he once called home.
The man known as The Sleeping Prophet was a celebrated mystic who trafficked in prophecy, healing and reincarnation. And as the world turns its attention on Hopkinsville for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, Cayce has a piece of the action.
A farm just outside of Hopkinsville will offer the ideal spot to witness the full totality of the eclipse for a spectacularly dark 2 minutes and 41.2 seconds. And Cayce believed that this eclipse will be enormously significant: It will usher in the Age of Aquarius, a time when peace and love will rule.
"I think that's pretty special for our town to usher in a new age of love," said Janet Bravard, director of exhibits and programs at Hopkinsville's Pennyroyal Area Museum.
"Of course, it'll take all of us to make it right. ... I think our town has gotten all the hospitality it can conjure up to prepare for it."
There's no time like the present to start because love – along with patience and kindness – will come in handy when eclipse chasers from 38 states and 16 countries descend upon Hopkinsville.
As many as 200,000 tourists, scientists and eclipse junkies are expected to swamp the quiet town of 33,000, many of them arriving early for camping and a music festival. Roads will be clogged, schools will be closed.
Hopkinsville Mayor Carter Hendricks said the town is ready for its moment in the sun, so to speak, although he's quick to point out that no one really knows what that means in such extraordinary circumstances.
"We're encouraging our residents to really embrace this opportunity," Hendricks said. "We know that it's going to create a little more hassle over that weekend, but when it's all said and done it's going to be worth it because it's giving us a chance to showcase ... all of the region for a worldwide audience."
For some perspective, Hopkinsville's biggest annual tourism event in years past was the Little River Days Festival, which drew 15,000 at its peak.
But 100,000 or more tourists, many of them spread across the city's modest 31 square miles? That, said Hendricks, is unknown territory.
"We're all being told to get our groceries, gas, and everything else before it starts, to treat it like a snowstorm," said Nancy Stalls. "I'm looking forward to it for the notoriety but the crowds of people, if they come, will be overwhelming."
The town was alerted a decade ago to the potential impact of the eclipse, which is the first total eclipse in 99 years to travel the width of North America.
Astronomers determined that Hopkinsville would be dark for 2 minutes and 41.2 seconds, one of the longer durations, and that nearby Orchardale Shepherd Farm would offer the spot where the moon will achieve maximum coverage.
That combination is catnip for scientists, eclipse aficionados and the merely curious.
Preparation began in earnest five years ago, Hendricks said, after an eclipse expert addressed a forum at Hopkinsville Community College. He showed photos where tens of thousands of people had gathered even in remote locations.
"That's where for the first time I really began to understand the magnitude of what we were talking about," Hendricks said. "I think we were all looking at it with a healthy degree of skepticism but when he shared those photos ... it really struck me that this was going to be something significant."