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Number of events and places to watch the solar eclipse in Crook County Continue to increase

PHOTO COURTESY OF WINE DOWN RANCH - The Wine Down Ranch, shown in the above photo, will serve as the location for the Moonshadow Festival, one of Crook County's eclipse-related events taking place this summer.

The closer the solar eclipse gets, the more people appear to be applying for permits to either host an event or provide places for people to congregate.

The solar eclipse will occur on Aug. 21, at about 10 a.m. in the Central Oregon area. Crook County is considered by many to be one of the top viewing locations in the country, and consequently, the area is expected to see tens of thousands of people flock to the area for a glimpse of the cosmic event.

The first and by far biggest event to emerge locally is Symbiosis, a festival put on by California-based Symbiotic Experiences. The organization was granted approval for a weeklong event on Big Summit Prairie, Aug. 17-23, for up to 30,000 people.

The festival will feature five stages, two food areas, and two water tanks, and is billed as "an educational conference and festival-style event featuring a total solar eclipse, music, art and presentations with an ecological timeline."

Symbiotic Experiences is expecting to feature several dozen acts during the weeklong festival, including live bands, world music, and the spectrum of house, techno, bass, downtempo and trance. Workshops will be held as well as yoga and dance classes and permaculture and cooking classes.

In late March, Moonshadow Festival was announced. Held at Wine Down Ranch, a 2,100-acre family-owned cattle ranch 12 miles northeast of Prineville, the festival will take place Aug. 18-22, and feature food and drink vendors, artisans, yoga instruction, plein air paint and sip classes, and four days of musical entertainment. The event also seeks to provide visitors the "traditional Western ranch experience" with working ranch demonstrations, cowboy storytelling, farm tours, guided hikes and stargazing.

Festival organizers are offering four-night outdoor, dry camping for tents, trailers and RVs and single-day visitor passes for those who live nearby and do not need to camp.

"It is on a working ranch, so the campground will be set in our hay fields," said event organizer Lauren Teague, whose parents own Wine Down Ranch. "We are going to sell space for 1,000 campers for the week, and we are planning on selling 500 day passes for each."

Opportunities to view the total solar eclipse include open views from the festival grounds and an optional two-mile hike to the ridge on Wine Down Ranch. Glasses for safe viewing of the eclipse will be provided with camping passes and Monday day passes.

More recently, the Crook County Court approved an eclipse-related gathering at the Paulina Rodeo grounds. Organizers are planning on hosting around 500 guests during the eclipse weekend and will provide visitors food and live music.

The remaining applications fielded by the county planning department seek approval for RV parking and mass gathering. On Wednesday, the county court considered an application for RV parking and a gathering of up to 1,000 people on a Powell Butte area property. According to Assistant Planning Director Ann Beier, this is not the only request of this nature.

"I have had a couple people ask for application for parking RVs on their property," she said.

Others have not formally applied for a gathering permit but have called and asked what is necessary for a permit should they choose to open up their property.

"They seem to be more interested in just providing RV parking than having big events," Beier said.

Because of the ongoing interest, the planning department has made a point of clarifying what sorts of gatherings require permits. According Beier, events hosting more than 100 people on private property and that occur continuously for more than 12 hours require a social gathering permit from Crook County.

"Permit applications and application fees must be submitted at least 60 days in advance of the proposed event," she added. "For camping and other activities associated with the upcoming solar eclipse, the deadline for submitting social gathering permit applications is June 16. This provides time for county departments to review the application and for the Crook County Court to review the applications. Permit fees range from $200 to $1,500, depending on the number of individuals on a site."

Community and/or private events of less than 100 people for less than 12 hours do not require a permit, but the planning department advises that all events be reported to emergency response agencies in the county so that they are better prepared to handle any situations that may come up.

In addition, events featuring food vendors must obtain a license from the Crook County Environmental Health Department prior to the event, and events that include alcohol sales will need licensure by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.