2024 Solar Eclipse draws over 20,000 viewers to Cape Girardeau; boosts local tourism and economy

Visitors to Cape Girardeau, Mo., flock to the riverfront to view the eclipse. The city welcomed more than 20,000 tourists during the eclipse on Monday, April 8.
Visitors to Cape Girardeau, Mo., flock to the riverfront to view the eclipse. The city welcomed more than 20,000 tourists during the eclipse on Monday, April 8.
Mason Galemore
270 Stories reporter Mason Galemore traveled to his hometown region of southeast Missouri to take in the sounds of the eclipse and talk with visitors.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — Following the 2024 Eclipse more than 20,000 tourists visited Cape Girardeau, Missouri giving small local businesses in the city a boost in revenue and customers.

It was the second total eclipse to travel across the country since 2017. This time, the eclipse lasted for four minutes, almost two minutes longer. The event presented a rare opportunity for the midwestern city where tourism officials could apply what they learned from the previous eclipse to make the experience better for viewers.

Brenda Newbern is the Executive Director for Visit Cape. She said preparing for the event presents challenges, but it is very rewarding to help people plan their visit to the city whether there is an eclipse occurring or not.

“We want people who visit our city during this eclipse to feel welcomed and accommodated,” Newbern said. “We want our residence to treat visitors with great hospitality. We want people who visit during this eclipse to say, ‘I really liked this town, I think I might come back to visit when there isn’t a crowd.’”

Newbern said that the unpredictability of the weather forced many people to relocate where they were going to view the eclipse. She said Cape Girardeau is perfectly geographically situated where tourists from major cities can travel via Interstate-55 and Interstate-57. She said Cape Girardeau, being a micropolitan area, presents less traffic issues.

There were a series of watch parties being held at different locations throughout the city. One of the events was the Old Town Cape Eclipse Block Party held on Spanish Street in the downtown area. The party hosted nearly one dozen vendors including the catering businesses located in Cape Girardeau. The business was established last year by Darion Pruitt. He says the block party was a ripe opportunity to strike up business.

“I’m very hopeful that we will have a lot of people come by here and check out what we have to offer and ask those questions of why we started,” Pruitt said. “I like to be interactive with the community as a whole as well as tourists. I want them to know how good of a place Cape Girardeau actually is.”

Just two blocks away from the Cove vendor is Brick Street Gallery – an antique store that has been in business for 25 years. John Wyman and his wife Jeriann have run the store since the 1990s. John said that small businesses like theirs are the backbone of a downtown economy in cities across the country.

 “Small businesses especially in downtown areas are typically unique businesses,” Wyman said. “They are run by local people, and they have the feel and the flavor of a place. In a sense a whole culture is reflected by small business owners.”

The eclipse drew in tourists not only from across the country but from across the globe. Mohammed Tawfeeq is a journalist for CNN international who made the drive from his home in Atlanta to view the eclipse in its entirety. He recently returned from covering the on-going Israel-Hamas War

“I packed my stuff last minute and made the drive up here,” Tawfeeq said. “I came here because I knew the weather would be good and I lucked out, the weather is perfect. I am really impressed with this city. It is very beautiful.”

At nearly 2:00 p.m. central standard time the eclipse reached totality with over 1,000 people viewing the phenomenon at Cape Girardeau’s River Walk. This will be the last solar eclipse in the mainland U.S. until 2044 which will primarily be in Montana and North Dakota.

View more stories about the 2024 Eclipse on the 270 Stories, a publication of the journalism capstone students at Murray State University.

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