Six months ago, Waco resident Dennis Michaelis had no idea he would be helping lead the effort to arrange one of the country's largest and best viewing sites for the rare coast-to-coast total solar eclipse.
Michaelis, the former longtime president of McLennan Community College, is temporarily based in Hopkinsville, Kentucky as interim president of Hopkinsville Community College. His wife still lives in Waco, and he plans to return home, too, in the fall.
In the meantime, Michaelis has been helping Hopkinsville Community College and his adopted Kentucky community brace for what could be 200,000 visitors. He expects somewhere around 3,000 of them to park vehicles in 600 spots sold at the community college -- which will offer bathrooms, emergency medical services and food to their guests.
"They started talking about this 10 years ago," said Michaelis. "But, I think, at least in the last four or five years, they've really started outlining where things were going. But, particularly in the last year I think it's been pretty intense."
The college alone will see guests from 36 states and four countries in its viewing area. Twelve extra security guards were hired to keep tourists safe, and volunteer faculty members are scheduled to help with traffic.
"We sold out 600 parking spots in just a few weeks," Chief Financial Officer Jeff Horton said. "We thought charging $50 for a parking spot was crazy high, but we probably could've charged a whole lot more."
Although the college will not see much of a profit from the event, after expenses are accounted for, Michaelis said the whole point was to get the institution's name out there by doing something positive for the community.