© 2024 Maine Public
1450 Lisbon St.
Lewiston, ME 04240

Maine Public Membership Department
63 Texas Ave.
Bangor, ME 04401

Portland Office
323 Marginal Way
Portland, ME 04101

Registered 501(c)(3) EIN: 22-3171529
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Scroll down to see all available streams.
The Rural Maine Reporting Project is made possible through the generous support of the Betterment Fund.

After years of preparations, Houlton welcomes visitors for solar eclipse

People check out the NASA table in front of the Temple Theater in Houlton, Maine on Sunday, April 7, 2024.
Patty Wight
/
Maine Public
People check out the NASA table in front of the Temple Theater in Houlton, Maine on Sunday, April 7, 2024.

It's Saturday morning at Brookside Bakery in Houlton, and manager Lindsay Anderson is working in the quiet before the storm. She packs loaves of sliced bread into bags, wraps up donuts and adds price stickers to whoopie pies.

"We are anticipating a lot of people," she said. "The town is, I think, well prepared to feed everyone."

Anderson has extended the bakery's hours for the weekend and has extra inventory on hand — including 500 whoopie pies.

Houlton, Maine is the last town in the country in the path of totality. After years of preparations, the town is ready to welcome visitors coming to see the eclipse.
Kaitlyn Budion
/
Maine Public
Houlton, Maine is the last town in the country in the path of totality. After years of preparations, the town is ready to welcome visitors coming to see the eclipse.

Similar preparations have been going on across town all week. And despite lingering snow flurries on Saturday morning, tents are up, food trucks are set up in Market Square and signs have been placed around town directing visitors on where to find more information.

Houlton the last town in the country within the 115-mile-wide path of totality, and local leaders knew they had to capitalize on that.

"We really have to do something with it, so we just took that opportunity," said Jane Torres, the executive director of the Houlton Chamber of Commerce.

Torres is the event coordinator for the eclipse planning committee, which started planning in earnest two and a half years ago.

"And then here we are, and it looks like we are going to be graced with a perfect day on Monday," she said.

The weekend was packed full of craft fairs, concerts and science presentations. Torres said she's rented a tractor-trailer for restaurants to store frozen foods. And she made more than 600 chocolate chip cookies for the County Co-op and Farm Store in town.

"I'm tired of making chocolate chip cookie dough, but they are really good, they really prepared for it," Torres said.

Last year, organizers bought 60,000 pairs of eclipse glasses, Torres said. And while that felt like it could be too many at the time, now they only have a couple thousand left.

Visitors coming to view today's eclipse will be directly to parking areas by a team of volunteers and shuttled to designated star parks — all on pavement — by a fleet of buses.

Volunteer coordinator Cecilia Rhoda said the goal is to make sure everything goes smoothly leading up to the eclipse and afterwards.

"You know, people think, 'Oh, okay, the eclipse is over.' Not for us," Rhoda said.

Houlton officials say they didn't make these plans on their own. Community Development Director Nancy Ketch said she started making calls years ago, to towns like Perryville, Missouri, which was in the path of the 2017 eclipse, and will see it again on Monday. Ketch said she was even invited to join the statewide planning meetings.

"So I've been zooming in to the Missouri task force meetings for probably the last nearly three years," she said.

The biggest advice from all the towns Ketch talked to?

Plan early. Very early.

Ketch said she made sure that porta potties and dumpsters were reserved early- so the town didn't have to scramble to get enough.

But with years of work behind them, Ketch said the town is finally ready to welcome the crowds.

"What an amazing opportunity to show people that Maine is about more than that- the lobsters lighthouses are wonderful, we always we all love those. But there's a lot more to Maine and what a great chance for people to experience that firsthand," she said.

The Eclipse Planning Committee is encouraging Houlton residents to consider renting parking spaces out today as a way to ease parking congestion, and also connect with visitors.

Kaitlyn Budion is Maine Public’s Bangor correspondent, joining the reporting team after several years working in print journalism.