|WLRA Exclusive Member News|
Total Solar Eclipse Wow’s Wyoming
In what was likely the largest tourism related event in Wyoming’s history, a total solar eclipse occurred on August 21, 2017 attracting hundreds of thousands of travelers to the Equality State. Many communities held eclipse festivals and special events aimed at welcoming the huge influx of travelers.
Initial calls to businesses across the state indicated throngs of happy travelers enjoying the rich history and natural wonders that our state affords those seeking a true western experience. Many hotels were sold out more than a year in advance and restaurants throughout the state enjoyed full dining rooms during parts of the weekend leading up to the event. Even those businesses that did not experience as significant a bump in sales as they expected reported solid volume through Monday’s big event.
The City of Casper had worked throughout the past several years developing a game plan to best capitalize on the increased volume of visitors. “What our residents and visitors experienced was accomplished thorough a heroic team effort by our city and county agencies, local merchants and business owners, event hosts, non-profit organizations and many others who spent countless hours coordinating, collaborating and communicating to make sure our attendees’ experience was memorable, safe and fun. Said Brook Kreder, CEO of the Casper Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau
Not only did the total solar eclipse put Casper, Wyoming, center stage, but it also presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to share with tens of thousands of visitors what makes our place in the world so special. I’m proud of what we accomplished as a community and look forward to leveraging what we learned to create new events and experiences that will drive both quality of life and our visitor economy.” Added Kreder.
The City of Gillette has been one of the hardest hit by the economic downturn in energy production these past two years so it was extremely welcome news to hear from local restaurateur and WLRA Past President Ken Barkey, Owner of the Prime Rib Restaurant that sales had been solid all weekend. “We saw a nice bump in sales all weekend- it was definitely a good boost for the restaurant.” Said Barkey.
“It was a great 4 days” reported Mary Silvernell, CEO of Visit Gillette/Wright. “Very busy around Gillette- hotels and campgrounds were almost full, all tours, including coal mine tours, Durham Ranch and Dry Fork Station power plant tours were almost full, and the Planetarium shows filled as well!
The Gillette Main Street event on Saturday was very successful, with 1,600 attending the Chancey Williams concert and street dance, and we had about 250 to 300 for the Watch Party yesterday at CAM-PLEX. We also sent 101 people down to Casper yesterday on our “Transport to Totality” motor coaches, from Italy, England, Canada and several states across the US, including a few locals from Campbell County.”
“From the Wind River Visitors Council’s perspective, the Total Solar Eclipse exceeded visitors’ expectations” according to Paula McCormick, from the Wind River Visitors Council, she spent the eclipse days in Dubois. “Dubois’s shops, restaurants, lodging and campgrounds were full, excitement was high, the skies were clear, yet traffic was manageable. The year of advance planning paid off. The Town and Chamber of Commerce of Dubois, all the Destination Dubois and Eclipse Committee volunteers, the Shoshone National Forest and the Wyoming Game & Fish did a great job of dispersing visitors on city and public lands to exceptional viewing sites. It was overheard often that our visitors 'would be coming back again.’ ”
The folks at the Crowheart Store between Riverton and Dubois said they had about 50 people in the store’s parking lot, and another 500+ cars pulled off along the highway turnouts and side roads to watch totality from clear skies on Monday. A lot of maps and eclipse stickers were given out, and special Reservation eclipse permits sold all throughout the weekend.
John Bass, Superintendent for Boysen State Park, said, “Boysen State Park was able to host 1/3rd of is annual visitors in one long weekend. A big thank you to the Wind River Visitors Council, the Chambers of Commerce, and especially the park employees and volunteers who made it go so smoothly.”
Jenissa Bartlett, CEO of Sweetwater Travel and Tourism reported “Sweetwater County Travel and Tourism hosted a “Solar Party” at the Sweetwater Events Complex on Monday August 21st and saw almost 600 attendees which included locals and visitors to the area. Sweetwater County lodging properties enjoyed complete occupancy and the county as a whole hosted thousands of travelers in restaurants, convenient stores and retail outlets.”
Like many, Teton County businesses had been preparing for the past two years in anticipation of the huge surge of visitors seeking to view the eclipse with the Teton Mountain Range as the back drop.
With staff trained and ready the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce spent the weekend welcoming over 25,000 visitors at their three visitor centers, Home Ranch Welcome Center, JH and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center and our Broadway Offices.
Rick Howe, VP JH Chamber of Commerce commented “We had an incredible mix of guests from all over the world. Most had planned their trips years out and were here to celebrate. We saw a vast majority try to experience the eclipse in the national parks and forests which left the town viewing sites an eclectic mix of scientists, fanatics and awe inspired first timers.”
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort hosted The Weather Channel, Redbull Athletes and the BBC while Snow King Mountain showcased an amazing presentation by NASA astronaut Scott Altman and other experts in the supernovae. “Wherever our guests ended up seeing the eclipse, we feel confident their experience was nothing less than spectacular. The weather cooperated almost as well as all the service agencies in town!” Added Howe.
No matter where the nearly one million travelers in Wyoming chose to view the total solar eclipse, the common theme echoed by all was that true Wyoming hospitality was clearly demonstrated across the state hopefully translating into repeat visits for generations to come.