Social media has been abuzz with talk of some very long-distance guests arriving in time for the total solar eclipse. But reality so far isn’t substantiating some of those reports.
For example, the talk of whether St. Joseph should gear up for a large number of guests from Japan can’t be verified by those who would be among the best in a position of knowing.
Brandon Butcher, general manager for Menard’s in St. Joseph, confirmed to News-Press Now on Tuesday the company was contacted more than two years ago by emissaries of a Japanese group interested in the Menard’s site in St. Joseph for the eclipse. But he stressed that nothing has ever since surfaced beyond that initial entreaty.
“We were contacted by a group from Japan requesting information ... They came here,” Butcher said, adding the approach included discussions with a prior Menard’s general manager. He has only worked at the St. Joseph store for about the past year.
No deal was ever negotiated, and no interest was ever voiced in having amenities set up for the viewing, outside of the sole original interest in the space itself.
They were told they should speak directly with the company’s main office on their request. Butcher said Menard’s property development team would have to sign off on such an agreement, and he said no such word about renting the space has ever been forwarded to the local store.
“I’ve been in constant communication with them,” he said, referring to the company’s home office and the situation. No other groups have submitted similar questions to Menard’s. Yet Butcher admitted word of mouth and social media, including Facebook, have been humming with chatter about a Japanese group planning to arrive at Menard’s for the eclipse — and with that talk carrying information about paying for the right to use the area. There have also been reports about a Russian group interested in the business’ site to observe the celestial phenomenon.
“We’ve kind of heard it all,” he added.
Rather than dwell on the lost opportunity, though, Menard’s has instead chosen to make its parking lot available for the general populace of eclipse fans next Monday. The space will be available to the public for free.
“Basically, it’s (on) a first-come, first-served (basis),” Butcher said. “We will be open normal hours.”
Steve Bratt, of the Kawasaki plant in Maryville, said he was unaware of any plans by the company’s corporate leadership in Japan for staging a visit to St. Joseph for the eclipse — dismissing yet another claim that seems to have an unknown digital genesis that’s circulating throughout the area.
Meanwhile, at the nearby St. Joe Harley-Davidson, employees are preparing for a Monday crowd that will utilize parts of the business’ parking lots also on first-come, first-served basis. Kaycee Cridlebaugh, who assists with the dealership’s Ebay page and marketing, said the Pony Express HOG (Harley Owners Group) chapter will serve grilled food during the day. She said the event is planned to run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cridelbaugh said a HOG chapter from Texas is due to attend, along with other individual visitors expected from California, Tennessee and Illinois.
She had also heard about the Japanese curiosity focused on procuring an eclipse site somewhere in the vicinity.
Elsewhere in St. Joseph, Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center confirmed it’s expecting visitors for the eclipse from across the nation. The Shakespeare Chateau Inn and Gardens also is planning to lodge some long-distance travelers, according to Isobel McGowan, the innkeeper.
A family of three from Madrid, Spain, cemented its reservations at the business three years ago, she said.
“The first I heard of the eclipse,” McGowan said of the Spaniards’ plans at the time.
She said the family consists of a father, mother, and child — all with a keen enthusiasm for the eclipse.
The chateau will have no vacancy for the five days that commence with Friday, McGowan said. Other guests there will be hailing from Wisconsin, California and Arizona.
The St. Joseph Convention & Visitors Bureau said it cannot confirm any of the purported word-of-mouth and social media announcements about potential worldwide interest in Northwest Missouri as the ideal eclipse location.
“We have fielded many, many calls from international groups” interested in information about the city, said Marci Bennett, its executive director.
She said astronomers from the Great Britain and Australia will be in town for the event. The bureau also is busily monitoring a veritable plethora of out-of-state travel arrangements from various and sundry motorcoach groups.