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Mostly Full

By Jim Mikula, President/CEO

Leading up to the eclipse there was plenty of “wondering” going on. Wondering about how many

visitors will come to our little town. Wondering what the traffic might be like. Wondering if the weather forecast for cloudy and/or rain would hold. Wondering if the visitors would leave town right after the eclipse.

Monday, April 8, 2024, Eclipse Day finally arrived, and at 1:34pm we experienced the true wonder of a total eclipse. At our elevated location, the clouds opened a few times so that we could see the sun fully eclipsed along with the fire ring. We were overlooking downtown and saw all the lights turn on. We noticed, as did Bill Nye “The Science Guy” who was interviewed from Fredericksburg on national TV Monday night, that the wind stopped during the darkness. That stillness gave us an experience of peaceful silence – a pause in the usual noise and commotion of our daily lives.

The number of visitors who descended on Fredericksburg for the eclipse appears to be less than forecasted. In some ways, that might be good news. I visited Main Street before the event. Marktplatz was busy but less so than the Light the Night Christmas Parade. Lady Bird Johnson Park did reach capacity. Visitors found various places along Austin and San Antonio Streets to set up lounge chairs or prepare seats in their truck beds to get comfortable for their viewing.

A few hours after the eclipse I visited Main Street again. I was surprised to see so many visitors hanging around and enjoying Main Street. It seemed pleasantly crowded – feeling somewhat similar to what Main Street experiences during Spring Break. I look forward to seeing the numbers from the Convention and Visitor Bureau to understand the flow of visitors on Main Street throughout the weekend before the eclipse and on the big day. It will also be enlightening when the Economic Development Commission reports the sales tax numbers. 

On East Main, the block between Washington and Elk Street was busy. The newly opened Oro Bianco Italian Creamery had a line out the front door around 4pm. The always popular Clear River Ice Cream, Bakery and Deli also had visitors standing in line to get a treat. Lock, Stock, and Barrel, another new store, was busy as well. The Albert Hotel’s Keidel Pharmacy had a steady stream of guests enjoying the fresh baked goods. West Main Street past Markplatz also had visitors strolling the walkways and enjoying the shops there. 

While we didn’t know what to expect, let’s not be disappointed that we prepared for bigger crowds. Some of us were also a bit cautious about just who might make up the eclipse-viewing public. But, my quick observation was that our visitors were well behaved and respectful of our community. It must have been seeing a rare celestial event that left us all in awe. The way I see it, our “glass” was not really a little empty…it was mostly full!

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