Lodging for eclipse No. 2 story of year
When Jefferson County residents learned that much of the county was in the path of the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, it didn't take long for entrepreneurs to figure out ways to offer lodging for the multitudes, and maybe even make a few bucks off the once-in-a-lifetime event.
Since hotels and motels had been booked as much as two years in advance, people rented out their homes, offered visitors places to park, and even set up elaborate campsites. School District 509-J rented out parts of buildings and camping spots at Madras High School and Jefferson County Middle School, and the Performing Arts Center, and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs rented out Kah-Nee-Ta Lodge to a Japanese tourist group.
But the biggest venues were farmers' fields and the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, where the Jefferson County Tourism Group — J.R. Brooks, Kelly Simmelink and Sandy Forman — rented out campsites and parking spaces. The group had 5,400 filled campsites at SolarTown, off Dogwood Lane, and 450 at the fairgrounds for the SolarFest. Altogether, on the day of the eclipse, there about 60,000 people between the two locations.
The city of Madras set up "daytripper" parking at the Madras Municipal Airport, and Rob Berg, airport manager, organized Solar Port camping at the airport, which had a combined total of about 4,000 vehicles. Berg and his wife, Tracy, also oversaw a total of 475 aircraft that flew in to the airport for the event.
At Juniper Hills Park, Jefferson County Little League sold 70 RV parking spots, 250 tent spots, and 450 day parking passes.
Prior to the event, Lysa Vattimo, event coordinator for the city of Madras, tracked 35 different venues scattered around the county, which had a total of nearly 19,000 spots. Besides just a place to park or camp, some offered food, music, entertainment, and even hot air balloon rides.
Because of the cost of renting portable toilets and wash stations, supplying garbage receptacles and other amenities, and in the case of SolarFest and SolarTown, providing bus service around town, medical tents, and security, the events didn't prove to be the moneymakers that some anticipated.
"It wasn't a giant windfall," Simmelink reported. "We were like a lot of the rest of the town; we prepared for the worst."