Perry County prepares for rare eclipse visibility

Perry County is preparing for a very special two minutes and 40.1 seconds in 2017.

A total solar eclipse will take place Aug. 21 next year, and Perry County will have one of the longest exposures.

Those hoping to see the eclipse should plan ahead: Don Ficken, chairman of the St. Louis Eclipse Task Force, said the last total eclipse in Perry County was in 1442, and the next would be in 2505.

Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, Perry County is preparing to be inundated by astronomy buffs.

"Our hotels are aware, and we have plans in place to fill those," Amanda Winschel, executive director of the Perryville Area Chamber of Commerce, told the Southeast Missourian. "We also have plans in place on how to fill our neighboring hotels and bus people in."

Local businesses are getting involved, too. Wineries are making special wines and Jackson Street BrewCo is making a special brew, and the coffee house will have a coffee just for the occasion. There will be viewing areas, cooling stations and restroom accommodations set up throughout the county.

The Perry County Eclipse Task Force is receiving some recognition for its efforts. Trish Erzfeld, the director of Perry County Tourism and chairman of the Perry County Tourism Taskforce, has been invited to the American Astronomical Society's U.S. Solar Eclipse 2017 Conference in Carbondale, Illinois, on June 10 to detail how the county has prepared for the influx of tourism.

The eclipse will be visible in Cape Girardeau, too -- but only for one minute and 47 seconds. So to get more mileage out of this eclipse experience, head about 30 minutes north to Perry County.

Congratulations to Perry County on its preparations and on the truly unique opportunity to extend Southeast Missouri hospitality to tourists.