Franklin, Kentucky may be six seconds shy of Hopkinsville’s world record time, but the small Simpson County town on the Kentucky-Tennessee border is taking a back seat to no one when it comes to celebrating the total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21. Franklin is near the centerline of the path of totality, and will experience two minutes and 34 seconds of total eclipse at its main viewing spot, the Franklin Drive-in at 6250 Nashville Road.
A viewing party at the drive-in movie theatre will include homemade solar telescopes for public use. Families will be able to gain admission to the event for $10 per carload. The individual walk-in price is $2 per person.
Solar eclipse viewing glasses will be sold at the drive-in. It is safe to look directly at the sun without protective eyewear only during the total eclipse; during the partial eclipse, safety glasses should be worn. The partial eclipse starts at 11:58 Central Daylight Time in Franklin. The total solar eclipse begins at 1:26 pm. CDT. (A solar eclipse occurs when the moon lines up perfectly in front of the sun. This creates a silhouette effect that covers the sun from view and casts the moon’s shadow on the earth.)
If the drive-in sells out, overflow parking will be available across the road at Kentucky Downs Race Course, 5565 Nashville Road, and just up the street at the Sanford Duncan Inn, 5083 Nashville Road. The charge for parking will be $10 per car at each auxiliary site. Restrooms will be available at both locations.
Franklin’s 524 hotel rooms are sold out for two nights before the eclipse, but county tourism director Dan Ware expects many more out-of-town visitors on eclipse day if the weather is clear. “Franklin is only a two- or three-hour drive down I-65 from the state’s two largest cities. Residents of Louisville and Lexington can check the forecast that morning and be here before the eclipse gets underway,” Ware said.
Ware noted that only a partial eclipse will be visible north of Bowling Green. “To paraphrase Mark Twain, the difference between a total eclipse and a partial eclipse is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug,” he said.
Eclipse watchers will have an opportunity to project the photographs they take publicly at an Eclipse After Party at Franklin’s Brickyard Café, located at 205 West Cedar Street in the city’s historic district.
Ware said some tourists from as far away as Alaska, California, and New York State have told him they plan to vacation in Franklin for the entire weekend. “A total solar eclipse that is visible over North America doesn’t happen very often,” Ware said. “It’s been 33 years since a total eclipse was visible in so much of the continental United States. The last time a total eclipse passed over southern Kentucky was almost 400 years ago. The only people here to see it then were Native Americans.”
On Sunday, August 20, the day prior to the eclipse, Franklin and its out-of-town visitors will celebrate the rare celestial event with the “Solar Eclipse of the Heart” Music Festival. Free music at the bandstand on Courthouse Square will begin at 5:00 p.m. Sunday. At least five Franklin bands are scheduled to perform until 9:00 p.m. Sunday night. Local food trucks will set up on the square during the event. Kentucky Downs is sponsoring the concert.
Franklin’s downtown merchants plan to open their stores for extended hours throughout the weekend prior to the eclipse. Commemorative eclipse T-shirts and caps will be among the merchandise for sale. The downtown stores will be open until 7 p.m. on Friday and 8 p.m. on Saturday. Sunday store hours are 12 to 5 p.m. On Monday morning preceding the eclipse, downtown stores will be open from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.
A classic family movie, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” will be shown in a free screening on the Courthouse lawn at dusk on Saturday evening, August 19.
The eclipse weekend will kick off with another free outdoor concert downtown on Friday night, August 18. Slated to perform on Friday, starting at 7 p.m., is the band Dizzorderly Conduct. Eclipse viewing glasses and eclipse T-shirts and hats will be sold at the concert.
(All outdoor events, except eclipse watching, are subject to a possible weather cancellation.)
Dueling Grounds Distillery, a local craft distillery located at 208 Harding Road, will host eclipse-themed cocktail parties on both Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 3 p.m. each day.
Those who signed up in advance will get to make their own telescopes at a workshop on the Franklin-Simpson High School campus on Sunday evening. After the eclipse, each workshop participant will have a telescope to take home for viewing the nighttime sky. Astronomer and WKU professor Rico Tyler is leading the workshop.
Updates on Franklin’s eclipse activities are posted on Facebook.com/solareclipsefranklinky2017. Current information is also available from Franklin’s Simpson County Tourism Commission; the phone number is 270-586-3040. The tourism commission is providing coordination and underwriting for several of the eclipse activities.