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The Vermonters going all in on the eclipse, from a church to a septic company

A white woman with grey hair and glasses and a white man who is largely bald with a little grey hair are sitting between church pews. They're trying on eclipse glasses and both wearing matching shirts that have an illustration of a cow wearing mud boots and eclipse glasses "Eclipse 2024."
Joey Palumbo and Kyle Ambusk
/
Vermont Public
The solar eclipse, which will last a couple minutes, could generate between $10 million to $20 million in out-of-state spending, according to estimates from the Department of Tourism and Marketing. Susan Ogden and Mark Kuprych have been preparing by organizing a fundraiser at their Burlington church.

The calls started last year, from people with seasonal properties and Airbnbs.

“They've got invited guests coming, and they said, 'Well, we don't want everybody using our bathroom, so we're going to rent a porta-let,'” said Kim Littlefield.

She runs Complete Excavation and Septic Services in Isle La Motte, which rents out port-a-potties and other portable restrooms.

“So I said, ‘Wow, OK, I better expand this,’ and put a little ad out there for anybody — parties and whatnot, that people may be doing celebrations for,” Littlefield said.

“We're getting a lot of, ‘Oh God, am I too late? I know this is a big deal. Do you have any units left?' It’s almost gone viral.”
Kim Littlefield

The ad she put together is a collage of three photos stacked on top of each other — of a solar eclipse, people wearing eclipse glasses and Littlefield with her staff in front of a row of port-a-potties. Text over the images reads: “Be a part of History — Solar Eclipse,” with the company’s phone number.

It ran on social media at the beginning of the year. And since then, the calls have kept coming.

“We're getting a lot of, ‘Oh God, am I too late? I know this is a big deal. Do you have any units left?’” Littlefield said. “It’s almost gone viral.”

She’s booked rentals at restaurants, state parks, the City of St. Albans and the town of Alburgh — they’re hosting a three-day festival with fireworks and a parade.

More from Vermont Public: Where will you be for the total solar eclipse? Check out these events around Vermont

Many towns are planning similar events, and the financial boost from visitors spread out in so many places could add up to between $10 million to $20 million, according to state estimates.

“That’s conservative, but it’s certainly possible we might see that kind of ballpark,” said Heather Pelham, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing.

The eclipse comes at an opportune time: April typically sees the fewest tourists to Vermont of any month. Last year, visitors spent about $125 million in April, compared to closer to over $250 million in the leaf-peeping days of October.

And all sorts of places are hoping to get in on the action, like a church in Vermont’s largest city.

“We created a homestay program where we’ve asked congregants to host basically strangers who are coming here for the eclipse as a fundraiser for the congregation,” said the Rev. Karen G. Johnston, who leads the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington.

On a recent sunny afternoon in the church’s sanctuary, she was wearing tights covered in stars and a black dress with an image of the moon passing over the sun.

A woman with pink and blue streaks in her hair and red framed glasses stands in a church wearing a black dress decorated with an illustration of a total solar eclipse.
Joey Palumbo and Kyle Ambusk
/
Vermont Public
Several rooms were still available for sale in the church's fundraiser, as of mid-March.

She says the idea for the fundraiser came from a few church members. They built a website, designed a T-shirt, and organized over 20 listings for sale — ranging from $100 a night for a pullout couch to $1,500 a night for a three-bedroom apartment.

One of those offerings belongs to Mark Kuprych. He runs a short-term rental in his building that sold immediately.

“For quite a bit of money,” he said. “So that will be a tremendous donation to the Society here. And then I said, ‘What the heck, I’m going to stay with a friend of mine,’ so I rented my own apartment.”

Church members also wanted to participate in the fundraiser to give visitors an opportunity to experience the eclipse. Louis deRosset said that was something he missed out on when an eclipse happened while he was in elementary school in Louisiana.

“They made us all stay inside because they didn’t have eclipse glasses and wanted to keep us safe,” he said. “So we stayed inside and watched a TV broadcast of the eclipse while it got dark outside.”

This time around, he’s excited to see his first total solar eclipse with his family. He hasn’t decided on where exactly he’ll go yet.

Neither has Kim Littlefield, with the septic company in Isle La Motte.

“From what I'm hearing, traffic is going to be jammed,” she said. “It’s almost being declared as a national holiday.”

She’s thinking of telling her staff to take the day off, so they also have a chance to "be a part of history."

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

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More eclipse resources

See all of Vermont Public's 2024 eclipse coverage.

Lexi covers science and health stories for Vermont Public.