“We’re doing a two-day festival prior to the eclipse,” said Herculaneum Mayor Bill Haggard, who is also overseeing the sales of city-stamped eclipse glasses, T-shirts and commemorative coins. “We’ve been working on this for a couple years now trying to get the word out.”
A total solar eclipse last touched the U.S. in 1979, turning day to night along the path of a moon shadow that crossed five states. The Aug. 21 eclipse is the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in 99 years.
For many, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with hotels filling up more than a year in advance and reservations spilling over into dorms at universities eager to cash in on their location.
But economists doubt a significant economic boon will be felt in most areas.
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Small towns are limited by how many people they can house, feed and entertain. At the same time, unlike a sporting event held in a specific city, the coast-to-coast eclipse spreads out spending with no one town as a focal point.
“Nashville is the largest city in the path and it will see the largest impact because it has the biggest hotel capacity,” said Jeff Humphreys, director of economic forecasting for the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business. “A lot of the smaller towns won’t have the infrastructure to accommodate big crowds, so people won’t be spending a ton of money in them.”