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Exploring Kentucky: X Marks the Spot in Paducah

The riverfront city is ready to welcome guests to share the April solar eclipse

By Katherine Tandy Brown

Wow! Paducah does it again…landing in the path of totality for the upcoming spring eclipse of the sun. Pretty cool!

On April 8, 2024, the riverfront city will experience this rare natural phenomenon for the second time in seven years: The sun’s path also included Paducah during the 2017 Great American Solar Eclipse. With the artsy community located at the intersection of the paths of totality for both the 2017 and 2024 eclipses, an event and watch party named “X Marks the Spot” is sure to draw locals and visitors from across the country this year.

“We are extremely lucky to see another total solar eclipse here in Paducah,” says Mary Hammond, executive director of the Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau. “According to NASA, any given point on the planet will only experience a total solar eclipse about once every 375 years, so Paducah is beating the odds.”

Big time.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon is directly between the sun and the Earth, casting a shadow on the Earth. On April 8 in Paducah, a partial solar eclipse begins at 12:42 p.m., with totality beginning at 2:00 p.m. and lasting approximately one minute and 31 seconds. The eclipse event will end at 3:18 p.m. After 2024, the next solar eclipse in the U.S. won’t appear until 2044.

A UNESCO Creative City and national heritage destination, Paducah is located at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers and is known for its deep-rooted creative culture. That culture informs intriguing, educational and fun events for guests who come to ogle the eclipse.

The aforementioned “X Marks the Spot” is a two-day community street festival in historic downtown, extending from Broadway to the riverfront. Stores will sell merchandise in street tents, the National Quilt Museum will have a booth with crafts and activities, and local bars and restaurants will serve their finest food and drink.

At the Inland Waterways Museum, formerly the River Discovery Center, you can learn all about the behavior of light and what can be observed during a solar eclipse. Celebrating the city’s maritime legacy, this treasure of an attraction will offer interactive and educational programs on eclipse day.

During the two-day downtown festival, Paducah’s Wildhair Studios’ Rock Shop, purveyor of New Age and metaphysical products, will host a Heaven and Earth Psychic Fair and retreat with energy healers, eclipse-themed activities and related merchandise. The city’s Dry Ground Brewery—the first tenant in the city’s refurbished, historic 1939 Coca-Cola bottling plant—will partner with a dozen breweries located on the path of totality from Maine to Texas and all the breweries involved will brew special beers for the eclipse and host a variety of events on the days leading up to and on the day of the eclipse itself.

Current tenants that share the art deco former bottling plant include Pipers Tea and Coffee, a super sipping spot to ogle changing art exhibits and a hand-drawn “behind the scenes” mural; True North Yoga, which offers classes, workshops, Bend and Brew, a partnership with Dry Ground, and a spoken-word poetry showcase; and Mellow Mushroom, which has been decorated by 30 artists, including residents from the Lower Town Arts District and students from the Paducah School of Art and Design. One iconic image in Mellow Mushroom features Paducah’s 1937 Ohio River flood, which led to the building of the Coke plant and the city’s floodwall, now known for its remarkable murals.

The Floodwall Murals were designed and painted by acclaimed muralist Robert Dafford and his team between 1996 and 2007 and feature 50 panels of the city’s history with a plaque on each. The murals represent one of numerous ways Paducah sustains its cultural heritage.

“We’re an authentic destination,” Hammond says. “From the streets to the river to the land to the buildings, all are part of our cultural heritage. The murals are a wonderful example. If you see nothing but those, you can know that’s who we are. We have quilters, fiber artists, historians. In our small Civil War museum, you can learn that the battle here was over the port of Paducah. We’re still a center for trade.

“If we don’t sustain who we are and instead focus too much on consumerism, who will we be? It’s about taking what we’ve learned from the past and creating our future. I believe that people want to share that with their families.”

Another storehouse of cultural heritage is the National Quilt Museum (NQM), where stories of the human experience come to life through fiber art. The history of America can be seen in the history of quilts. The museum collection has grown from 85 at its opening in 1991 to its present-day total of 650, which range from invaluable antiques like grandma used to make to unique, amazingly creative contemporary designs.

A terrific place to view the eclipse is on a quilt (of course!) at the NQM. Guests are invited to bring their eclipse-viewing glasses and picnic quilts to spread on the lawn, where Mother Nature will provide wide sky views.

Other locations on the path of totality in the commonwealth are slated to experience longer periods of duration. For instance, Monkeys Eyebrow, the northernmost community in the Jackson Purchase area of Western Kentucky, will experience totality for over three minutes. But you’ll want to make Paducah your home viewing base because of its solar eclipse-related activities…and for the fact that you can see three eclipses here:

  1. Talented quilter Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry’s creation, Corona II: Solar Eclipse, 1989, won the AQS (American Quilting Society) Best of Show and has the distinction of being the first machine-quilted quilt to win the top award. You can admire its blazing colors at the NQM.
  2. Quilt City USA Murals is a privately funded floodwall mural series featuring paintings of actual quilts. This 24/7 public art project is on the 332-foot floodwall adjacent to the Schroeder and Carroll Convention Center, the location of Paducah’s AQS Quilt Week convention, which draws 30,000 visitors each year. Corona II: Solar Eclipse, 1989 is featured on a mural here.
  3. And of course, you’ll see the real eclipse. Founded in 1827 by William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame), Paducah embraces culturally and historically who it is and where it came from.

“We have the amenities of a big city—a symphony, world-renown restaurants like the farm-to-table Freight House—yet our downtown still has that Americana, small-town feel,” says Liz Hammonds, director of marketing and communications for the Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). “One of our CVB colleagues says, ‘You can go to the symphony on Friday night and tend to your chickens on Saturday.’ You’re going to be treated like family here.”

For more info on eclipse-related events in Paducah, check out paducah.travel/events/solar-eclipse-2024. To find out all you need to know about planning a visit, take a peek at paducah.travel or call 1-800-PADUCAH (723-8224).