- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

PERRYVILLE, Mo. (AP) - A rural Missouri county along the Mississippi River is gearing up for visitors who will arrive next August in search of the best viewing of what some are calling the Great American Eclipse.

The Aug. 21, 2017, event will be the first total solar eclipse to be seen from the mainland U.S. in nearly four decades, visible over 12 states. The eclipse happens as the moon’s shadow races over the Earth’s surface at more than 2,000 mph. Stars and planets come out, and the sun’s corona glows in a perfect circle around the dark side of the moon as the effect of a sunset appears in all directions.

Communities from coast to coast are arguing for bragging rights as the best place to watch. Madras, Oregon, claims its high-desert setting gives it the best odds for clear weather. Hopkinsville, Kentucky, boasts it will have the greatest degree of eclipse anywhere, meaning it will remain “total” for longer. But promoters in Perry County, 80 miles south of St. Louis, say their locale is the best because it will offer one of the longest views of the total eclipse.

The eclipse will be total in some locations for less than 30 seconds. The Southeast Missourian (https://bit.ly/28V7hh6 ) reports that Perry County will have a view for 2 minutes and 40.1 seconds, among the longest anywhere.

Trish Erzfeld, director of Perry County Tourism, said the extended view is expected to entice astronomy enthusiasts to the area, perhaps up to 20,000 visitors.

“For those that are really passionate about astronomy, they want to maximize their experience,” she said.

Local businesses are preparing for the expected visitors. Hotels are getting ready and plans are in place to provide buses for those who can’t stay close by, said Amanda Winschel, executive director of the Perryville Area Chamber of Commerce. Vintage wines, beer and coffee will be specially made for the eclipse.

“People are getting excited within their businesses to get on board,” Winschel said.

Perry County will have a long wait to the next eclipse. Don Ficken, chairman of the St. Louis Eclipse Task Force, said the last total eclipse in Perry County was in 1442, and the next would be in 2505.

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Information from: Southeast Missourian, https://www.semissourian.com

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