Eclipse boomtown in cloudy city? Oswego business owners prepare for solar eclipse with optimism

OSWEGO, N.Y. — A window decal of a smiling moon covering the sun greets pedestrians walking past Man in the Moon Candies in Oswego. Around it reads, “ECLIPSE! APRIL 8TH.” To the right of it is a small advertisement for a collectible poster displaying a map of the 2024 total solar eclipse’s path. The backside asks the reader, “WHERE WILL YOU BE?”

Amy Lear, owner of the candy store, said she will be busy at the store, though she will close the shop for a few hours so she and her staff will be able to watch the “once in a lifetime event.” 

But she is uncertain over how much the store will benefit from the influx of eclipse tourists the city projects will visit Oswego. 

“The path of totality is pretty huge from Mexico up to Canada, and we’re not exactly known for our sunny days in April,” Lear said. “Texas is a better choice for reliability of sunshine.”

Lear’s prediction holds up to weather data. The New York Times’ eclipse forecast map, which collects NASA data, places Oswego’s average cloud cover at 62%. Even for Texas, the map judges half the state to have cloudy skies, while the other half’s to be mostly clear.

The unpredictable weather presents a challenge to the city. How does a city prepare for being in the eclipse’s path of totality while also having regularly cloudy April weather? Despite the odds not seeming to be in Oswego’s favor for a clearly visible eclipse, business owners and city officials hope that the turnout will be as big as possible. 

“It could be 60, it could be 60,000,” said Amy Murphy, the city’s director of economic development. “The estimates are all over the place. Emergency management has some pretty crazy estimates but we’re trying to prepare for the best and the worst here.”

Emil Christmann, owner of River’s End bookstore, fondly remembers the 2017 solar eclipse, which was partially visible in Oswego. He particularly enjoyed the “pinhole camera effect” that projected glowing crescents through the shadows of trees. The store features a display of books about eclipses and space, both for younger and older readers.

For this eclipse, Christmann expects a lot of traffic. As for business revenue, he expects “a small uptick,” but nothing huge. 

“I would hope for a nice little bump,” Christmann said. “We’ll see what happens.”

He stocked up on protective eclipse glasses, though, which he said will probably run out quickly. For the 2017 eclipse, people continually walked into the store asking for glasses, for which the store was unprepared.

A window display shows a smiling moon on the sun, emulating a solar eclipse. Text around decal reads, "Eclipse! April 8th."
Local Oswego businesses, such as Man in the Moon Candies, are preparing for eclipse tourists. Photo by: Evan Youngs

Lear said while she is excited for the eclipse, the window display is the extent of the candy store’s preparation.

“I feel like we should be doing more because we’re ‘Man in the Moon Candies,’” Lear chuckled.

This means no eclipse-themed candy at the moment, since the store focused their energy toward the reliably profitable Easter season.

“Rabbits don’t multiply on their own and we’re concentrating on rabbits at the moment,” Lear said.

Every local hotel is fully booked for eclipse weekend. Some offered package deals to eclipse tourists, such as the Best Western, whose deal included a morning luncheon and a shuttle service. The hotel also plans to show a livestream of the weather balloon launch at SUNY Oswego, a faculty-student project collecting research for NASA.

Business owners and city officials compared the eclipse to Harborfest, the summer festival that, according to the festival website, attracts about 75,000 people annually.

But what crucially differs between the solar eclipse and Harborfest is their durations. Harborfest promises four days of food, vendors and music. The eclipse’s main attraction, the phase of totality, when the moon completely blocks the sun, will last for only three and a half minutes in Oswego.

To extend the festivities for the eclipse, the city planned a block party for the day before. Murphy and co-planner Mattison Peet, an economic development specialist for the city, intentionally planned for the food to be solely from local businesses.

“We’re not bringing in food vendors or anything that competes with small businesses,” Murphy said. “We want them to get all the business that night.”

The next times Oswego will experience an eclipse, though just a partial one, will be in 2079, and another partial eclipse will be in 2144. While the rare phenomenon will be a temporary local attraction for the city, what happens to the local economy after the moon drifts from the view of the sun is difficult for many business owners to tell.

“Barring the celestial phenomenon, it’s just another Monday,” Christmann said.