Timothy Earle, owner of the Bingham General Store, stands in the walk-in storage where he has extra water and other beverages on hand. He said he’s not sure it will be enough for Monday’s eclipse-watching crowd. Jake Freudberg/Morning Sentinel

BINGHAM — By any measure, Bingham is a small town: It has three gas stations, a hardware store, and a few places to grab a bite to eat.

On a normal day, it has about 730 people.

But on Monday, its population is expected to grow exponentially with people traveling to view the total solar eclipse that will span the northern half of Maine. That has businesses preparing for an overwhelming crowd — but also planning some fun.

At the Bingham General Store, owner Timothy Earle said he has been stocking up on extra inventory, including essential items like water and food. The store also has extra change on hand, in case he can’t make it to the bank on Monday, and has extra staff scheduled to work Monday, Earle said.

But he’s not sure that’s enough.

“We’re going to see what happens,” said Earle, who has owned the store for about six years. “We’re kind of winging it … I’m kind of hoping I’m being an alarmist.”


Bingham falls on the southern edge of the so-called path of totality, where the moon will completely block out the sun. In Bingham, totality will last for about two minutes, according to Eclipse2024.org, a website dedicated to information about the eclipse.

Sharon Wood/Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel graphic

About 50 miles north in Jackman, the eclipse will last about three and a half minutes. As one of the longest durations in Maine, the town of about 1,000 is expected to be a hotspot for visitors. And most people traveling to Jackman — unless they are coming from Canada or Maine’s north woods — need to pass through Bingham.

“People are fascinated by this,” Earle said of the anticipated eclipse-related mayhem. “But I honestly believe we’re going to be overwhelmed.”

Public safety officials in Somerset County have said they don’t have an estimate on the total number of visitors because many eclipse chasers will only come for the day — and where people go could change at the last minute because of the weather.

Officials did surveys of lodging establishments in the area, up and down the U.S. Route 201 corridor, and found everything has been booked for months.

At North Country Rivers, a campground, lodging establishment and rafting company in Bingham, the cabins have all been booked for weeks, said Janell Colburn, the front desk manager. But the phones continue to ring as visitors attempt to make last-minute plans.


Janell Colburn, front desk manager at North Country Rivers in Bingham, looks at reservations Friday for this weekend and Monday at the business’ campground and cabins. She says the cabins have been booked for weeks. Jake Freudberg/Morning Sentinel

“The excitement has been great,” said Colburn, who has a hobby for celestial phenomena.

Since the cabins are full, people have been asking about camping options, Colburn said.

But given the mix of mud and recent snowfall, as well as minor flooding damage from December’s historic flooding of the Kennebec River, Colburn said she can’t book guests at campsites, unless conditions change. Fortunately, nobody has asked about landing a plane at North Country’s field airstrip, Colburn said.

“Our campground is typically gated off this time of year because it’s mud season,” Colburn said. “We haven’t done our basecamp cleanup yet.”

The business is ready to welcome the day-tripper crowd, Colburn said. Its restaurant, Patrick’s Pub, will be open and the parking lot will be open on a first-come, first-served basis for people who want to watch the eclipse.

Across the street, Jimmy’s Shop’n Save is also planning a parking lot party, with free eclipse glasses, free giveaways, and, yes, free beer, courtesy of the store’s beverage distributor.


“We’ve done beer tastings in the past,” said Eric Hatfield, whose family owns the supermarket. “I thought why not throw one during the eclipse?”

Hatfield said the store has taken calls from people from around New England checking to make sure they can come.

Portable toilets are ready to go at Jimmy’s Shop’n Save in Bingham to accommodate the expected crowd of eclipse viewers on Monday. Jake Freudberg/Morning Sentinel

His answer: Of course.

Jimmy’s also had four portable toilets delivered, with the parking lot expected to be full. The gas tanks at the pumps next to the supermarket are also full, Hatfield said.

Up the road at the general store, Earle said he will have the tanks filled, but expects to run out of gas Monday. Along the hourlong drive on Route 201 between Bingham and Jackman, there’s only one gas station: Berry’s General Store in West Forks.

Despite his concerns, Earle is embracing the crowd and hopes travelers stay safe so that they can enjoy the region.

“I’m excited about it,” Earle said. “It’s an opportunity for us.”

“And I’ve got a hundred kinds of nips. Just in case.”

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