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Eclipse brings excitement, tourism to Eastern Townships

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The total solar eclipse is coming with plenty of safety warnings, but in the Eastern Townships, there's excitement about the fact that the celestial event is becoming a tourist attraction.

For most, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"A solar eclipse, a partial one, happens every few years, but a total [eclipse], this is what is super rare. The last one, for example, over Montreal was in 1932," said Julie Bolduc-Duval, executive director of Discover the Universe.

While there are school closures and warnings about protecting people's eyesight, many across eastern Canada are mostly excited.

"I had the chance to see a total solar eclipse in 2017 in the United States, and it's really something," Bolduc-Duval said.

On April 8, the eclipse is slated to cross Mexico and the U.S. before heading into Canada.

The spots directly under this shadow are called the path of totality, where viewing the eclipse will be the best.

Quebec's Eastern Townships are right centre.

"It goes straight through Sherbrooke and Astrolab du parc national du Mont-Mégantic above two dark sky reserves," explained Lysandre Michaud-Verreault, a spokesperson for Tourism Eastern Townships.

Magog, Sherbrooke and Coaticook should have the best seats in the house for the celestial show.

The Eastern Townships tourism board says it is expecting around 75,000 people at 50 watch parties.

That's not counting those who will be coming to watch on their own.

The region says it is especially good for tourism because it's happening in what would normally be a quiet time of year.

"After Easter, it's not as crowded as it could be, but for the eclipse, it is. So it brings a lot of people," said Michaud-Verreault. "We are pretty busy. The occupation rate is pretty high."

There are also events in Montreal, with hundreds or even thousands expected to pack into Parc Jean Drapeau for a viewing party.

"It's just an amazing experience. You kind of feel part of this universe," said Bolduc-Duval.

If you miss this one, there's always next time but for eastern Canada, there's no other eclipse anticipated for at least 50 years. 

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