This small Vermont town is throwing a big solar eclipse party (2024)

In the town of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, everyone’s got their head in the clouds, and for good reason.

“There has been quite a buzz going on," says Mark Breen, senior meteorologist and planetarium director at the Fairbanks Museum, Vermont's only public planetarium. "And we're probably part of the reason because we started talking about it.”

The “it” he refers to is — of course — the 2024 total solar eclipse.

“As it turns out, this is the only planetarium in all of New England that's in the path of the eclipse," said Breen. "I'm bubbling ... I've been here for 40 years, and this is going to be an absolutely unique marker in my time here.”

This quaint town on the edge of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom has been making more than its share of headlines recently, since it falls in the path of totality — a cosmic coincidence that is expected to draw an estimated 200,000 visitors to the state.

Admittedly, that makes some of the locals a little nervous.

“I think people are super duper excited, but there's also a lot of stuff about like, 'where am I going to get eclipse glasses? I heard a lot of people are going to come. Do we know exactly how many?' And the answer for us is always we have no idea,” said Ama Jones, one of the planetarium's resident AmeriCorps educators. She's approaching the big day with optimism — and caution.

“We're closing off roads and stuff, so there's a lot of preplanning to go into this,” said Jones.

A three-hour drive from both Boston and Montreal, located just off three interstate highways, and home to the only planetarium in New England on the path of totality, St. Johnsbury seems perfectly positioned to be one of the top destinations to experience the celestial phenomenon in all of New England.

This small Vermont town is throwing a big solar eclipse party (1)

Kate Dellis GBH News

“My boss told me to plan for the eclipse like it's a natural disaster. So just, like, put gas in your car, because there will be people who show up and all the gas will be missing. Get cash from the ATM because people will get here and realize they didn't have cash," Jones said. "And I'm not going anywhere. Whatever I needed to do the day or weekend of the eclipse, I don't anymore.”

For a small, rural town, St. Johnsbury punches well above its weight in the cultural sphere. Complete with a gilded Athenaeum and first-class preparatory school, much of St. Johnsbury’s infrastructure can be traced back to the Fairbanks family, after which the planetarium was named.

“They invented the platform scale. It was this amazing invention. It became a worldwide product. There's still Fairbanks scales today," said Breen. "It became a very prosperous town starting, say, around the time of the Civil War, a little bit before that. But because you had these industrial philanthropists, you ended up with some pretty amazing buildings, facilities in a really small community. “

Still, there was a time not so long ago when St. Johnsbury had more vacant storefronts than filled. Gillian Sewake, director of the designated downtown organization called Discover St.Johnsbury, remembers a time when degraded and dilapidated structures peppered the heart of the town.

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“So St. Johnsbury, like a lot of other rural towns ... has had challenges with outmigration, with blight, with drugs, with crime. This has happened everywhere, with just the change of the manufacturing base in a lot of our communities," Sewake said. "And so St. Johnsbury had quite a lot of large employers closing in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s.”

But to be clear, a megawatt solar eclipse event isn’t something that is happening to the town. This is a party they are actively throwing, and not just because there’s a science museum here. Organizations have been working for decades to reimagine St. Johnsbury as a small town where big things can happen.

“We're building up our infrastructure here. We're building up our ability to accept this kind of activity into the community. We want to be at a place where our events in this small little town attract 5,000 to 10,000 people routinely," said Gillian. In planning for the solar eclipse festivities, the town has laid the groundwork for logistics like parking and shuttles for future town events. "We have the relationships built up with the town so that the permitting process is smoother next time around.”

This sort of cross-organizational cooperation is a hallmark of St. Johnsbury today. When Breen at the planetarium needed a stage to host his live eclipse broadcast, Jody Fried executive director of local arts organization Catamount Arts, came to the rescue with a free portable stage.

This small Vermont town is throwing a big solar eclipse party (4)

Kate Dellis GBH News

“The positive benefits often come in the six months to a year that follows,” Fried says, “but what happens is people come to a place for the first time, and if they feel welcomed, if they have a positive experience, it spurs their curiosity. And it might be two or three-day trips, it might be one amazing event, but what you hope is that for a percentage of those folks, this becomes one of their places.”

Bob Joly, director of the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, has observed the slow and steady progress his community has made transforming itself into a vital cultural hub in Vermont's Green Mountains.

“I think there's a great vibe here ... And while this was in some ways a typical 19th-century-that-had-its-heyday-all-long-gone town, it is a very cool place with some neat things, and people are finally discovering it.”

For Breen at the planetarium, he says an event like this and coordination with a variety of community groups will leave a lasting impact on the town.

“I think people are going to be talking about this for years and years and years, especially if it is clear out. This is going to be this wonderful town memory."

Experts say there is a 70% chance of rain or clouds in this part of the country on any given April 8 — not ideal for a once in a lifetime event in the skies. Still, that hasn’t deterred these Vermonters. Beating the odds is something they’ve gotten pretty good at in St. Johnsbury.

This small Vermont town is throwing a big solar eclipse party (2024)


Where in Vermont can you see the solar eclipse 2024? ›

Middlebury and large swathes of northern Vermont experienced a total solar eclipse for seconds to minutes on Monday, April 8.

What towns are in the path of totality in Vermont? ›

The Path of Totality will hit northern Vermont towns including Burlington, St. Albans, Montgomery, Stowe, Waterbury, Morrisville, Montpelier, Barre, and Newport. The longest duration of totality, at 3 minutes and 34 seconds, will be in St. Albans and Montgomery.

How many people are coming to Vermont for the solar eclipse? ›

Crowds prepared to view the total solar eclipse from Burlington's Waterfront Park at 2:45 p.m. Monday, April 8. The influx of tourists to Vermont for the total solar eclipse seems to have met state officials' highest expectations.

What cities are in the path of totality eclipse 2024? ›

Cities inside the path of totality

The major cities inside the path are Mazatlan, Torreon, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Montreal. The ovals in the map show the shadow of the Moon at five minute intervals. This path is called the path of totality.

When can I see the eclipse in Vermont? ›

Eclipse Times: Path of Totality
LocationPartial BeginsMaximum
Buffalo, New York2:04 p.m. EDT3:20 p.m. EDT
Burlington, Vermont2:14 p.m. EDT3:27 p.m. EDT
Lancaster, New Hampshire2:16 p.m. EDT3:29 p.m. EDT
Caribou, Maine2:22 p.m. EDT3:33 p.m. EDT
9 more rows
Apr 9, 2024

What is the smallest town in VT? ›

In 1788 Vergennes was Vermont's first city. Today it's not the only city, but it is the smallest city - just two square miles in size – and one of the prettiest downtowns around.

What is the most isolated place in Vermont? ›

Nulhegan Basin Division. The Nulhegan Basin Division is located in the most remote part of Vermont in the towns of Brunswick, Ferdinand, Bloomfield, and Lewis.

What states will see the solar eclipse in 2024? ›

The path of the eclipse continues from Mexico, entering the United States in Texas, and traveling through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Small parts of Tennessee and Michigan will also experience the total solar eclipse.

What is the longest totality of solar eclipse 2024 in USA? ›

Who will experience the longest time in totality during the eclipse? The maximum totality will last up to 4 minutes, 28 seconds, in an area about 25 minutes northwest of Torreón, Mexico. Across the U.S., durations longer than 4 minutes will stretch from Texas as far north as Economy, Indiana, according to NASA.

What is the rarest eclipse to happen? ›

A hybrid solar eclipse — the rarest type of solar eclipse — is witnessed when an eclipse shifts between annular and total as the shadow of the Moon moves across the globe. In this case, some parts of the world see a total solar eclipse, while others observe an annular solar eclipse.

Why is the 2024 eclipse so special? ›

Why was the 2024 total solar eclipse so special? The 2024 total solar eclipse was a major event. Totality could last twice as long as in 2017, depending on the observer's location. It was also the longest totality on land for over a decade, so eclipse-chasers from around the world flocked to the path of totality.

How long will the 2024 solar eclipse last? ›

How long will the 2024 total solar eclipse last? The longest duration of totality is 4 minutes, 28 seconds, near Torreón, Mexico. Most places along the centerline (path of totality) will see a totality duration between 3.5 and 4 minutes.

How long does a solar eclipse last? ›

How long does a total solar eclipse last? Total solar eclipses last anywhere from 10 seconds to about 7.5 minutes. In the span of 12,000 years from 4000 BCE to 8000 CE, the longest total solar eclipse will occur on July 16, 2186, and will last 7 minutes 29 seconds.

What time will the 2024 solar eclipse be visible? ›

Apr 8, 2024 – Total Solar Eclipse in the United States
Global Event:Total Solar Eclipse
Start of Partial:Mon, Apr 8, 2024 at 6:27 am HST
Start of Totality:Mon, Apr 8, 2024 at 1:27 pm CDT
End of Totality:Mon, Apr 8, 2024 at 4:35 pm ADT
End of Partial:Mon, Apr 8, 2024 at 4:41 pm EDT
2 more rows

Will the 2024 solar eclipse be visible in New York? ›

A solar eclipse will be visible in New York State on the afternoon of April 8, 2024. New York will be one of eleven contiguous U.S. states situated within the path of totality for the total solar eclipse. Several regions of the state will be in the direct path of totality.

Where is the 2025 solar eclipse visible? ›

Regions seeing, at least, a partial eclipse: Europe, North in Asia, North/West Africa, Much of North America, North in South America, Atlantic, Arctic. This eclipse isn't visible in Wichita - Which upcoming eclipses can be seen in your location?

Where will the next total solar eclipse be visible in the United States? ›

On October 14, 2023, an annular solar eclipse crossed the sky from Oregon to Texas. On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will be visible as it crosses from Texas to Maine.

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