This 600-Person Town Will Be Swarmed with People in August—Here’s Why

It may be tiny, but Makanda, Illinois, is about to be the best viewing site in the country for a major astronomical event.

Suzanne-Tucker/ShutterstockThe tiny town of Makanda, Illinois, boasts a population of only 600. But for the next two months, the citizens of Makanda will be preparing themselves for the massive influx of people that’s coming on August 21. Why are people suddenly preparing to flock in droves to this quiet little town?

For the first time in nearly 100 years, a total solar eclipse will cross the United States from coast to coast. This means that the sun and the moon will line up perfectly so that the moon completely covers the sun. The sky will turn dark in the middle of the day and the temperature will drop significantly. Even more amazing, rays of sunshine will be visible in a ring around the moon. The phenomenon is both eerie and incredible, and seeing one is on many a bucket list.

But again—why Makanda? Well, that’s where the total eclipse will be visible the longest—over two minutes—before the moon moves on and allows some of the sun to peek out again. The path from which the eclipse will be visible goes diagonally across the continental United States, from Oregon to South Carolina. People who won’t be right in the path will still be able to see a partial eclipse, with the moon covering part of the sun. (Here’s what the sun looks like from the International Space Station.)

Meanwhile, the Makanda townspeople are getting ready to welcome the eclipse-seekers, many of whom are scientists and astronomers. Joe McFarland, Makanda’s “eclipse coordinator,” knows that the event—and the anticipated thousands of visitors that will come with it—might present difficulties for the tiny town. “We’re nervous that we’re going to have crowd control issues, traffic control issues,” he admitted to CBS news. “We’re trying to prepare for that.” According to CBS News, most of their hotels are already booked solid. Learn about another tiny town in this amazing story.

Still, the town is still looking forward to celebrating the exciting astronomical event. A line has been painted straight through town to represent the eclipse’s path, and many of the townspeople are planning to open their homes or backyards to viewers.

Dave Dardis, who owns a Makanda art studio, feels lucky that he’ll get the best view of the eclipse right in his backyard. “How can you not feel lucky?” he said. “This is a lucky event.”

If you’re interested in viewing the eclipse, check out space.com’s guide, and here are some other small towns you should visit this summer.

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Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.