MURPHYSBORO, Ill. — David Logan and Joanna Tweedy won’t be going anywhere during the solar eclipse of 2017. They’ll be in their backyard, observing the phenomenon along with dozens of strangers.
The married couple are among rural landowners renting out some of their acreage to campers traveling from far and wide to get a premium view of the total eclipse that will occur here at 1:20 p.m. Aug. 21.
“We have a beautiful, shaded area with a great view of the Milky Way,” Logan said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to welcome some strangers in as friends, to sit around the campfire and get to know them.”
The couple’s home is only a few miles from Carbondale, Illinois’ unofficial ground zero of the celebration surrounding the astronomical event. It is also close to Walker’s Bluff, a winery that will host Moonstock 2017, a four-day music festival headlined by Ozzy Osbourne, the Prince of Darkness himself. The British heavy metal icon will be on the main stage during the two minutes of total midday darkness, appropriately performing “Bark at the Moon.”
Carbondale is in the path of the arc the eclipse will make as it moves from the northwestern United States southeastward. Partly because it is home to Southern Illinois University and close to scenic attractions such as the Shawnee National Forest, it has been touted as one of the premium viewing destinations.
“Carbondale is going to be the place to be for that whole weekend,” said Greg Hollmann, an astronomy instructor at nearby Rend Lake College, who is on a committee coordinating and publicizing the event.
The celebration will include a number of entertainment options. Carbondale will host an arts and crafts fair, among other activities. For $25, one may reserve a seat at Saluki Stadium, where NASA officials equipped with sophisticated equipment will project images on the football field.
Exactly how many people will show up for the celestial party is anyone’s guess. Estimates range from 30,000 to more than 100,000. Early on, hotels and commercial campgrounds began filling up for the weekend, prompting governmental bodies to pass ordinances allowing homeowners to rent out space to moon gazers.
SIU took the step of offering the use of vacant dorm rooms during summer break, along with camping spots inside the Recreation Center. Virtually all hotels in Carbondale will be putting up the No Vacancy sign. It’s the same story across the region. Hotels in nearby Marion have been nearly sold out.
“As a region, we’re pretty much filled up,” said Jannika Lopez of Carbondale Tourism.
Lopez said the bureau is referring people to Mt. Vernon and Effingham, about 60 and 120 miles from Carbondale, respectively.
Logan and Tweedy are among a few landowners in Jackson County who are welcoming eclipse viewers. The Jackson County Board passed an ordinance allowing residents to apply for temporary camping permits. They must pay a small fee and provide basic services, such as water, sanitation and garbage disposal.
Logan and Tweedy see the event as an opportunity for fellowship.
“It’s fun for us to have people excited about the same thing,” Logan said. “We like to travel. With this event, we don’t have to travel, so we’ll open our home and give others a comfortable place to stay. It seemed like a really neat opportunity. We’re in an ideal situation where we can do something to participate.”
The happening could also lead to more adventures and even a business opportunity. Logan and Tweedy are considering opening up their home for future events, especially in April 2024, when another eclipse will occur, crossing the region from the opposite direction.
“I don’t want to gauge its success until it’s over. But so far, we’re pretty excited,” Logan said. “Hopefully, the campers who stay with us this time will come back. Where we’re located, on the edge of the Shawnee and near Kinkaid Lake, we might have people come by periodically. You never know.”