The Great American Eclipse is less than seven months away and the Chester Beautification/Tourism Commission discussed the upcoming total solar eclipse at length during its meeting last Tuesday.
Commission Chairwoman Brenda Owen announced that two scientists, Dr. David Linton and Mindy Baumgartner, will be in Chester the day of the event, Aug. 21.
"He"s pretty excited to be here," Owen said of Linton, who teaches astronomy at Eastern Illinois University. "He"s going to help us find optimal spots for viewing."
Owen noted that Linton will be in the area on April 21 because that date features the same position of the sun as the day of the eclipse.
Baumgartner is from Chicago"s Museum of Science and Industry.
"We"re looking at least two sites in Chester," Owen said, noting that the commission would look into paying for hotel rooms for the scientists. "We"re looking to get people excited about the events here and focus on the science of what"s happening."
Currently, the commission is planning on a three-day lead-in to the eclipse, which is expected to occur at 1:21 p.m. and last 2 minutes and 41 seconds.
The Chester Public Library is discussing having a movie night on Friday, while Fertile Soil is expected to have a "Dance the light away" show at the Chester American Legion on Saturday night.
Space trivia is anticipated to take place on Sunday and other activities are still being planned.
Owen noted that the Illinois Emergency Management Agency is estimating between 10,000 and 20,000 people to come to the area, with Chester being one of the prime viewing spots in the track of the eclipse.
"Obviously, there is a shortage of housing," said commission member Sandra Starr.
The commission discussed the possibility of people renting out rooms to visitors, but Owen noted that she would have to check the city ordinances first and would report back.
"Chester will be a different place that day," she said.
Chester Recreation Director Patti Carter noted she has received only one entry in the city"s recent solar eclipse logo contest and had inquired about using the logo for the event taking place at SIU in Carbondale, but was told the commission would have to pay to use it.
Carter and commission member Cynthia Lawder are expected to speak to the Chester Chamber of Commerce about the eclipse during a lunch presentation on Feb. 21.
In other news, Owen said she had submitted preliminary applications to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency for three of the four properties the commission hopes to get onto the National Register of Historic Places.
"I"m sure it"s like everything with the State of Illinois," she said. "We wait for them to do something about it."
Owen noted the IHPA meets quarterly to discuss applications and as part of the process, the commission would have a hearing in Springfield to make its case for inclusion on the list.
Finally, the commission discussed a long-standing piece of old business regarding postcards, which was first raised during a then-Chester Tourism Commission meeting in January 2016.
"The purpose has changed," Starr said.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Linda Sympson noted that in the past, visitors to the Welcome Center were sent to Spinach Can Collectibles for postcards.
The commissioners discussed getting notecards instead, which would be used to send thank you notes to the various volunteers and organizations that help with activities and fundraisers.
• Carter noted several changes for this year"s Christmas on the River, including that the parade route will be shorter, the nativity scene will be moved to Santa"s Village and that there will no longer be yearly themes for the event.
• Norma Baughman, of Randolph County Tourism, noted the upcoming Kaskaskia Eagle Fest, which will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 4 at the Jerry F. Costello Lock and Dam in Modoc.
"It"s something to do and something to see," she said.
Baughman also noted Bicentennial Committee will meet on Feb. 1 to discuss Randolph County plans to observe the state"s Bicentennial celebration in 2018.
• The commission discussed purchasing polo shirts for its tour guides that conduct the riverboat visits. A price was not available, but was stated to be an average of $15 per shirt.
• Owen noted that the new banners for the riverfront have been delivered, as has the welcome sign. They are expected to be installed in April.