April 8 Eclipse Tourists Love Johnson County, Some Want to Move Here

By Aspire Economic Development + Chamber Alliance | | 4.17.24

Thousands flocked to Johnson County to witness the solar eclipse last week, with visitors from across the country and even from around the globe coming to witness the eclipse in its path of totality.

While the visitors left an economic impact on the county, the community has left a personal impact on some visitors planning to return and even stay.

Communities across Indiana and counties situated in the path of totality all reported high rates of visitors in their parks and open public spaces. The Daily Journal reported that college campuses in Bloomington and Muncie as well as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway all saw impressive turnouts and heavy media coverage.

Johnson County was one of the few lucky communities to have the absolute center line of the path of totality pass through, and with clear skies that day, the county became an ideal viewing location.

Johnson County’s business community, local governments, and tourism agents have been preparing for the big day years ahead and learned from other communities who have had past success with managing a solar eclipse viewing event.

Aspire hosted a free eclipse business planning webinar in February with Ken Kosky, Executive Director of the Festival Country Indiana Visitor Center in Franklin as well as other officials in Johnson County. Chamber of Commerce executives from White House, Tennessee whose community experienced the path of totality from the 2017 eclipse, were invited to give insight.

“We publicized more than 50 eclipse viewing sites throughout Johnson County,” said Kosky. “Some of the popular places where people chose to watch the eclipse were the amphitheater in downtown Franklin, at Taxman, at Kelsay Farms in Whiteland, and at several of the parks and open spaces throughout the county.”

The visitor center in downtown Franklin served 2,280 people during the three-day weekend, including individuals from 28 states and 20 countries. Kosky noted that many of the visitors hailed from the Chicago area, Cincinnati, and Louisville.

“We were amazed at how many people said they were definitely planning to visit here again. We had at least five families talk about moving to Johnson County after having a wonderful experience here.”

Kosky reflected on the impressive turnout and the economic impact it had on local business.

“We haven’t analyzed all the data yet, but we are confident that we saw an economic impact of several million dollars from one weekend," said Kosky. “Our hotels were booked, and thousands of people drove in for the day, and they contributed to our economy by buying gas, food, souvenirs and more."

Feedback from the governor’s office praised Johnson County for its showcasing of the event and the community’s assets. “I believe we fared very well in comparison to counties that are similar to ours,” added Kosky.

Addressing concerns about potential overcrowding, Kosky mentioned the strategic spread of viewing sites across the county, which helped keep traffic under control.

“Some people predicted that nobody would come for the eclipse. Others predicted we would be overrun by visitors," said Kosky. “The truth is that we got exactly the number of visitors that we could accommodate and provide an exemplary experience to."

Kosky praised the local business community and municipalities for their preparedness, and mentioned the years of planning that went into ensuring the weekend ran smoothly.

“The local business community and municipalities did a tremendous job of being prepared," said Kosky. “When the next eclipse occurs in other parts of the nation or world, I would not be surprised if we are asked to detail how we got everything to happen without a hitch."