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'Our Super Bowl': Franklin businesses look to cash in on eclipse tourism

Tourism official predicting economic impact of $10 million for area businesses.
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Lunar Eclipse
Posted at 1:57 PM, Feb 21, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-23 17:22:36-05

FRANKLIN — The city of Franklin in the heart of Johnson County will be a prime viewing spot for the once-in-a-lifetime total eclipse that passes over our hemisphere in April.

And some local businesses are hoping to cash in.

"This is one of those events that comes along every 100 years or more, so we're super excited about it," said Ken Kosky, director of Festival Country Indiana, Johnson County’s tourism bureau.

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Ken Kosky, director Festival Country Indiana

Franklin will be at the epicenter when the eclipse occurs on April 8. The community is preparing for a massive influx of sky-watching visitors.

"It's really kind of terrifying as a business owner, because we're not sure like how many people are going to be here," said Christina Fletcher, a furniture artist and owner of Possibilities in downtown Franklin. "It could be 50,000, it could be 250,000."

Fletcher said she’ll have eclipse T-shirts, cups and other merchandise for sale at her shop. She’s also turning part of her store into a VIP-experience she’s dubbed “Total Eclipse Oasis 2024.”

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Christina Fletcher, owner of Possibilities in Franklin.

For $497 a person, oasis guests get goodies that include food, personalized merch and a rest room for the day.

"I figured this is our opportunity to make the most out of all of this," Fletcher said. "I just know that when we have big events, it's food and bathrooms that are a big deal for people."

Sky watchers are expected to flock to Franklin, where they will experience more than four minutes of "totality," that time when the moon completely blocks the sun and casts its shadow across our portion of North America.

Indianapolis, meanwhile, will get about three-and-a-half minutes of totality.

Total solar eclipse passes over United States

2017 Solar eclipse as seen from Madras, Oregon.

Nick Gaynor, the owner of T-Shirt Express, is selling shirts that read “I got mooned.” His shop is also busy printing shirts for many other local businesses.

He's ready and excited about the visitors and the business opportunities.

"Yeah, this is gonna be a very, very big deal," Gaynor said, "and we're very happy to be right here in the middle of it all."

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T-Shirt Express in Franklin.

Casper, Wy, was a prime viewing spot for the last total eclipse that passed over the U.S. in 2017.

Kosky said the tourism folks in Casper said eclipse visitors brought in an economic impact of about $7.5 million.

"We think we can easily have an economic impact of 10 to $25 million," Kosky said.

“We don't have a stadium. We'll never attract the Super Bowl,” Kosky said. “But not only for our community but for a lot of other communities in Central Indiana, I guess it is our Super Bowl."

Christian Maslowski, CEO of Aspire Johnson County, said some businesses are trying to find ways to keep the doors open and trucks moving while dealing with heavy traffic and a massive influx of eclipse visitors.

"Businesses have to decide, is this a business opportunity? Can I capitalize on the visitor spending?" Maslowski said. "Or this is going to be somewhat of a challenge, and this is going to be a headache."

On the whole, Maslowski said he and his Johnson County neighbors are feeling the excitement that comes with being one of the best places in the country to view a once in a lifetime event.

PHOTOS: The best of the 2017 solar eclipse
CASPER, WY - AUGUST 21: A partial eclipse is seen from South Mike Sedar Park on August 21, 2017 in Casper, Wyoming. Millions of people have flocked to areas of the U.S. that are in the "path of totality" in order to experience a total solar eclipse. During the event, the moon will pass in between the sun and the Earth, appearing to block the sun. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

"The closer we get, the more buzz there is from the community," Maslowski said. "I hear about it from folks coming in getting glasses. I heard about it from folks at church.

"You know, there are businesses that are starting to think about how can we celebrate this."

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at victor.ryckaert@wrtv.com or on X/Twitter: @vicryc.