Report: Eclipse brought 100K more people to Johnson County

Johnson County saw about 100,000 more people in the county for the total solar eclipse, data released Tuesday afternoon shows.

On a regular weekend the county typically sees 1.2 million people visitors, but during eclipse weekend, there were 1.3 million — a net gain of 100,000, said Ken Kosky, executive director of Festival Country Indiana, the county’s tourism bureau. People who were just passing through the county are not counted in this data, he said.

“My analysis is that our efforts to encourage eclipse activities across the county resulted in the county’s net gain, and prevented ‘bleed’ to surrounding counties that would have resulted in no net gain in numbers or a net loss in numbers,” Kosky said.

Franklin received the largest impact from visitors based on percentage, with visitors defined as someone outside the boundary of the area being drawn for data, Kosky said. On a typical weekend, there are usually 14,700 people downtown. For the eclipse weekend, that number more than doubled to 36,100, he said.

The data was compiled using information from people’s cell phones by, a location intelligence and foot traffic data software. For the analysis, an analyst used the phone data to determine how people were at a local on various levels, like from a micro-level at the Franklin amphitheater and on a greater level, all of Johnson County, Kosky said.

This is to show a “true picture,” the numbers from Festival Country include both residents and visitors. This allows them to see if there was a net gain or loss, he said.

“For example, if we drew 50,000 people, but 50,000 of our folks left, the net is zero,” he said. “So our numbers account for people who left, but yet we still show the gains in people inside the downtown or county.”

People who are just passing through are specifically excluded in the data set, Kosky said.

In the months leading up to the eclipse, estimates varied for the impact on central Indiana and Johnson County. Some estimates expected up to 500,000 for central Indiana, or up to 100,000 in Johnson County. Kosky expected the April 8 eclipse to bring thousands of people to the area. In Franklin alone, people from all over the United States and from 25 countries around the world visited for at least one day of the eclipse weekend, according to Festival Country.

Because of overcrowding concerns — and using knowledge gained from what happened in communities in the path of totality during the 2017 eclipse — Festival Country “purposely” enlisted every church, school or attraction that was interested in having an event to do so and gave them free eclipse glasses, Kosky said last week. They “purposely” spread people out throughout 50 sites in the county so that no one area would experience traffic jams or overcrowding, he said.

Officials in Greenwood previously said attendance for their pre-eclipse event the day before the eclipse was lower than they expected, having about 1,000 people attend that event. People still had a great time despite this, Parks & Recreation Assistant Director Jen Winget said last week.

The parks department budgeted their event as part of their annual special events budget. The total cost was about $24,000, and officials were able to recover nearly 40% of the cost throughout the weekend and Monday through “various revenue streams,” she said.

Numbers for Franklin were not immediately available on Tuesday, but Parks & Recreation Director Chip Orner said last week the city’s eclipse festival was better than what he expected, as it wasn’t overcrowded. One of their intentions was for out-of-towners to have something to do for the whole weekend, which worked out, he said.

In the aftermath of the eclipse, some Franklin business owners have complained they feel as though the turnout was exaggerated to the point they overprepared and lost money, according to reporting from Several local business owners attended the Monday Franklin City Council meeting and asked for a change in how festivals are planned and local businesses are included in these events.

The Daily Journal will report more on what business owners are asking and how the city is responding later this week.

Editor Leeann Doerflein contributed to this report.