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Total Eclipse To Make Tiny Illinois Village Feel Like Center Of The Universe

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A tiny village in southern Illinois will turn into a major tourist attraction on Aug. 21, when it will be the site where a total solar eclipse will last the longest.

The Aug. 21 eclipse will last up to 2 minutes and 41 seconds in Makanda, Illinois, where it will get dark enough for temperatures to drop noticeably, street lights to turn on, and bright stars to be visible in the sky.

The tiny village of 600 people expects major crowds to turn out to watch the eclipse, which will reach totality at about 1:20 p.m. on Aug. 21.

"Everybody who witnesses a total solar eclipse on a clear day says 'That is the greatest natural wonder I have ever seen in my life,'" said Joe McFarland, Makanda's unofficial eclipse coordinator. "Partial eclipses, while a lot of people remember, a lot of people remember as just being interesting, kind of memorable. They don't realize how dramatically different and amazing it is to experience a total solar eclipse."

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McFarland said, while the village will take center stage for the eclipse, officials there have not planned any events for the special day.

"It's a very, narrow, small valley where parking is so limited; and it's going to be congested here that if we had, for example, a big concert or some sort of festival going on, that would just add to the congestion and make it even worse," he said.

Makanda is expecting nearly 200,000 people to visit the area for the eclipse.

McFarland works at Eclipse Kitchen, which was set up as the village's information center for the eclipse, and is selling t-shirts. He said everyone has a sense of humor about it.

"We've got an old comic book from the early 60s framed on the wall here. It's one of these terrifying sci-fi covers that's called 'Captives of the Eclipse!' The whole town is being terrorized by a solar eclipse that won't go away!" he said with a laugh. "I don't think that's going to happen on August 21st, but we'll see."

Visitors will be encouraged to watch the skies from nearby Giant City State Park where the view will be just as grand. Nearby Carbondale also is expecting plenty of visitors for the eclipse, as Southern Illinois University is planning a four-day festival to mark the occasion.

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