Greenville group makes last-minute plan to welcome eclipse visitors

By Troy Bennett, Bangor Daily News Staff

Amid a dearth of official, tourist-related promotion or planning, an ad hoc group of Greenville friends and business owners is working to welcome the throng of celestial sky-watchers expected to descend on their village next month for the solar eclipse.

The group, which calls itself the Moosehead Lake Eclipse Committee, wants its tourist-dependent hamlet to be as welcoming as possible for what might be tens of thousands of first-time visitors — especially after winter brought little snow for the local skiing and snowmobile economies.

“We want them to come back,” said committee founder Abby Freethy. “It’s been such a terrible winter.”

Greenville is one of the handful of communities in western and northern Maine that will be inside the path of totality during the April 8 eclipse, though the ability of visitors to see it will depend on the weather that day.

Photo courtesy of Abby Freethy
ECLIPSE THEME — Snow falls around a sign near the Greenville town line recently. The welcome sign now has an eclipse theme thanks to members of the Moosehead Lake Eclipse Committee.

Freethy started her group several weeks ago in frustration, when it seemed town officials were focused only on public safety issues surrounding the event.

“They’d just as soon shut the town down, completely,” Freethy said. “We have to say ‘yes’ more and let people know Greenville is open for business.”

Greenville Town Manager Mike Roy admits public safety has been his focus in the leadup to the event, which he reckons could draw up to 30,000 people to the Moosehead Lake region.

“We have a town rule: We don’t promote events,” Roy said. “Events promote themselves.”

The town has its hands full helping to coordinate the public safety officials who will be on hand, including game wardens, Piscataquis County sheriff’s deputies, a Maine Forest Service helicopter and three ambulance crews, according to Roy. He’s particularly concerned about tourists relying on GPS directions that could get them mired in mud on deserted logging roads.

“And then there’s the ice,” Roy said. “We don’t want anyone out there on the lake. We have no idea how thick the ice is — especially after it just got covered with two feet of snow.”

Thus, with town officials out of the event-promoting picture, Freethy’s group is the sole welcoming committee in Greenville.

Freethy normally runs Northwoods Gourmet Girl, which hosts popup dinners and makes high-end pantry staples. The committee also includes a restaurant owner, a real estate agent, a hospital administrator, two teachers and a rental cabin owner. 

The group has secured a shopfront in the historic Shaw Building block as headquarters and spruced it up with new paint. It has also procured Moosehead Lake eclipse souvenirs to sell, including hoodies, T-shirts, drinkware, keychains and eclipse glasses.

Additionally, the committee designed and paid for banners hung around town. It also installed an eclipse-themed welcome sign at the town line and started a social media campaign. The committee is also printing maps showing visitors the best, and safest, places to watch the celestial show. 

“And we got the town to pay for 30 porta-potties,” Freethy said. “We don’t think that’s going to be enough, but people need a place to pee and it would be deplorable if we let this opportunity go.”

The committee, whose Facebook and Instagram accounts go by Moosehead Solar Eclipse 2024, has also created a giant, eight-foot replica pair of plywood eclipse glasses. It hopes the wooden specs will become a selfie magnet and help spread a fun-loving, welcoming image of Greenville all over the internet.

“It’s so important, especially now,” said committee member Aurelie Adrien, who owns Leisure Life Resort & Trailside Restaurant off Lily Bay Road. “This is mud season, the worst time of the year, without much to do.”

Freethy and Adrien said their plans have come together quickly, thanks in part to a $1,000 donation from the local Kiwanis Club and countless volunteer hours, as well as thousands from committee members’ own pockets. After recovering their costs by selling souvenirs, the committee hopes to donate most of the proceeds to a local charity or two, while leaving a little in the bank to seed future projects.

The Eclipse Committee’s downtown retail headquarters open to the public on Friday. 

“It’s going to be the best place for visitors to find out what to do and where to go,” Freethy said.

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