Shortly after Darla Shipley became manager of Comfort Inn & Suites in Chillicothe about two years ago, the hotel's owners told her about a 2017 event that would fill all the rooms at the facility: The solar eclipse.
Shortly after Darla Shipley became manager of Comfort Inn & Suites in Chillicothe about two years ago, the hotel’s owners told her about a 2017 event that would fill all the rooms at the facility: The solar eclipse. At that time, one of the company’s hotels in Perryville, Mo., was already booked for Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017. “Back then, I didn’t know what they were talking about,” she recalled during an interview with the Constitution-Tribune on Friday. But, it didn’t take long for Shipley to become familiar with the event and realize its impact on local lodging. “We’ve been sold out for three to four months,” Shipley said of the 62 rooms the facility has to offer. A few of the eclipse-seekers who had booked rooms early on had already checked in as of Friday, but guests for more than 50 of the rooms had planned to arrive Sunday. Among guests scheduled to arrive Sunday were visitors from Bangkok, Thailand, who were coming in just to see the eclipse. They had reserved three rooms. Other guests were coming from throughout the U.S., including from California and, even, Hannibal. Because of the eclipse, the hotel has had to turn down lodging requests from non-eclipse seeking individuals. While those in the hotel and motel business have been talking about this event for years, not everyone had even heard about the eclipse. Shipley told about a “regular guest” who became upset to learn that the hotel had no vacancies for Sunday night, typically, a day that has vacancies. “I had to tell them, ‘Sorry, we are sold out.’ Then they said, ‘But, it’s a Sunday.’” While the total solar eclipse has been hitting the news, it’s making a bigger splash in the communities that are in the path of totality. “Some people still don’t know about it,” Shipley said. Chillicothe is in the path of totality for the solar eclipse. This means that for approximately 1 minute, 20 seconds, the south end of Chillicothe will be in complete darkness. (The north end of Chillicothe will also experience a total solar eclipse, but the duration of darkness will be shorter). Perryville, located 80 miles southeast of St. Louis, is in the middle of the path of totality and will get a whopping 2 minutes, 40 seconds when day turns into night. The Associated Press reports that millions of Americans are converging on a narrow corridor stretching from Oregon to South Carolina to watch the moon blot out the midday sun Monday. It will be the first total solar eclipse to sweep coast-to-coast across the U.S. in 99 years. With 200 million people within a day’s drive of the path of totality, towns and parks had been bracing for monumental crowds, the AP reported. It's expected to be the most observed, most studied and most photographed eclipse ever. All of North America will get at least a partial eclipse. The lodging impact of the event has filled several of the local facilities, although a couple still had very limited space available as of Sunday afternoon. Fairfield Inn & Suites and Days Inn have been fully booked for a couple months. “The more word spread, the more we filled up,” said Robert Smith, general manager of Fairfield Inn. The inn has 78 rooms. “We have people coming from every direction, including Texas, Iowa, Nebraska,” he said. “We’ve had calls from all over.” In addition to inquiring about lodging availability, callers are asking about how close Chillicothe is to the path of totality and how much time the community will be in the dark during the eclipse. Fairfield Inn and Comfort Inn had planned to host an outdoor movie “Apollo 13” Sunday evening. The event was open to the public free of charge . A watch party was scheduled for 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. for the community to come and watch the eclipse. The watch party is also open to the public free of charge with several vendors expected to be on site, selling food and T-shirts. Days Inn has been sold out of its 60 rooms for the last five months. “We started getting calls at the first of the year when people realized that it was going to come right through here and that we’d be in the path of totality,” said Vicky James, senior front desk clerk at Days Inn. She noted that among guests are four groups from Florida who were coming to Chillicothe especially for the solar eclipse. The inn has also been handing out special solar eclipse glasses for their guests and plan to have chairs set up outside for everyone to view the eclipse. “Our phone has been ringing off the hook by people just wanting to make sure their reservations are going to be there,” James said.