A Quiet Maine County Braces for the Eclipse. ‘Where Are 20,000 People Going to Pee?’

For generations, visitors to Maine have flocked east to the rocky coastline, with its lobster boats and crashing waves, or west to ski resorts, peaceful lakes and mountains. Few ever set foot in Aroostook County, a remote northern expanse where residents are prone to suspect — not without reason — that no one south of Bangor even knows that they exist.

So the news that “the County,” as it is known in Maine, would be smack in the path of totality for next month’s solar eclipse — making it a destination for potentially thousands of visitors — has generated mixed emotions in this proudly unpretentious place. Accustomed to ceding the spotlight to showy spots like Bar Harbor, some in the county are not sure how they feel about its fleeting status as the place to be.

“It’s a little new for us here, so it is stressful,” said Lindsay Anderson, manager of Brookside Bakery in Houlton, a town of 6,000 that borders Canada, where the plan for eclipse weekend includes baking 500 whoopie pies, Maine’s official “state treat.”

Next door at Market Square Antiques and Pawn, a compact shop watched over by several mounted deer heads, Tom Willard, a co-owner, had worries of his own.

“Where are 20,000 people going to pee?” he asked.

Lindsay Anderson, manager of Brookside Bakery in Houlton. Eclipse T-shirts for sale at Houlton’s co-op, the County Co-Op & Farm Store. Tom Willard, a co-owner of Market Square Antiques and Pawn.

No one knows how many people will travel to Aroostook County for the eclipse on April 8, making planning a bit of a roulette spin. Estimates range from 10,000 to 40,000, though the turnout may be curtailed by sheer distance. Extending north beyond the end of Interstate 95 to the Canadian border — where the little-known, combat-free Aroostook War raged from 1838 to 1839 — the county is about as large as Rhode Island and Connecticut combined. Caribou, near its northern apex, lies 400 miles north of Boston, a drive of more than six hours.

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