Manager Jenny Shaw’s phone has been ringing off the hook at the Historic Hotel Prairie in Prairie City.
It’s a little over a year away, but an August 21, 2017, solar eclipse is creating quite a buzz, and city and county officials, business owners and others are making preparations.
Shaw said they received their first reservation for the event in 2011 and were booked for that weekend in 2014.
When she received the first reservation in 2011, Shaw said she thought the person was crazy.
“I wish I had a dollar for every person I turned away,” she said. “I’d have at least $1,500, and that’s not exaggerating.”
She has 25 people on a waiting list at the hotel on Front Street.
Last Wednesday, she received another request for a room reservation during the eclipse.
“He thought he was ahead of the game,” she said.
A couple of John Day hotels that don’t hold reservations more than a year out are expected to book up next month.
So why is an astronomical event more than a year away generating so much attention?
Shaw said one astronomer who plans to stay at the hotel said the Grant County area is a prime spot for eclipse viewing due to the elevation, clear skies and the remoteness, with fewer city lights.
Tammy Bremner, Grant County Chamber of Commerce manager, said the heavenly event is expected to be the most widely viewed total eclipse.
The full eclipse will start, locally, at 10:22 a.m., lasting for two minutes, six seconds — the partial phase begins at 9:08 a.m.
Solar eclipses happen when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun.
“Totality” occurs when the moon completely covers the sun, temporarily casting a portion of the Earth’s surface in a shadow of daytime darkness.
Bremner said most hotels in the county are filled except for those that had planned to start booking a year out.
She added the county’s population could double that weekend, which she said is a modest estimate.
The chamber is holding monthly meetings about the eclipse.
Their last meeting on July 6 drew a crowd of about 75.
Scientist Darlene Yan will speak at a town hall hosted by the chamber from 6-8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, at the Canyon City Community Hall.
A program coordinator for Multiverse at the University of California Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory, Yan will share knowledge about next year’s eclipse.
The eclipse will be seen by people across a horizontal swath of land across the U.S.; however, experts say the most valuable viewing spots will be in less populated places with no city lights.
Bremner said Newport will be the first city in the state to experience the eclipse, but she said that area is often foggy in the morning. Portland will not be in the path of totality.
“For me, it’s exciting to think that so many people want to travel here to be a part of a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Bremner said.
She added Travel Oregon estimates 50 percent of those visiting the state for the eclipse will be from out of the country.
John Day city officials are also planning for the influx of visitors.
City manager Nick Green said forms are available for temporary use permits for lodging and concessions at city hall.
“If people want to have guests that come and pay rent from out of town, they’ll need a temporary use permit,” he said.
Those selling concessions, such as bottled water, ice, sno-cones, etc., are also required to have a temporary use permit.
He added the city doesn’t plan to provide concessions.
Green said the city intends to host at least 104 RV campsites at the city-owned industrial park.
“We’re going to try to use this as an economic development opportunity in partnership with the chamber and Grant County Economic Development as well as Travel Oregon,” he said. “We’re encouraging public feedback.”
Shaw said one “eclipse chaser” she spoke with has traveled the world, including Greece, to view solar eclipses.
The man was too late for a room at Hotel Prairie but was able to secure a nearby cabin rental.
Shaw said he told her, “This is ‘the spot’ to see the eclipse.”