The promise of clear summer skies will be attracting a lot of activity to central Wyoming in August of next year, as a scheduled total solar eclipse is drawing national attention, including a visit by an annual astronomical convention.
Casper will be the focus of events because there is a very high probability that the area’s clear skies will not interfere with seeing this rare event. A point on the Casper College campus has been determined as the best place to see the totality of the eclipse, but Lowell Lyon and Carroll Iorg of the group planning the 2017 Astrocon convention say that viewing the Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 eclipse will be “rewarding” in a fairly large area of the surrounding community.
Lyon and Iorg are in Casper this week meeting with hotel representatives and working on arrangements for their annual convention. The Parkway Plaza Hotel and Convention Centre will host the event, which Lyon will chair. Their organization, the Astronomical League, looked at many other locations and chose Casper because of the altitude and the likelihood of clear skies. The group also looked at St. Joseph, Mo. and Hopkinsville, Ky. before deciding on Casper.
They are getting commitments from well-known speakers around the country to see the eclipse and address the convention, including a tentative acceptance from Fred Espanek, who Iorg called the “guru of eclipses.”
Planning for official eclipse activities is under the direction of the Casper Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and its CEO Brook Kreder. The CVB is partnering with the City of Casper to manage most of the activities and events. Kreder said she will start later this week interviewing applicants for the position of event coordinator. She said about 40 resumes have been received.
Lyon and Iorg praised the CVB for being well organized and giving considerable thought to planning all aspects of the event. If anything, it is keeping Kreder busy.
“We’ve had 31 meetings in just the last 6 weeks,” she said. “We’re working on lists of things that have to be accomplished in order to make this a great experience for thousands of visitors and residents.”
Kreder said the weekend before the eclipse will be busy with concerts and various performances and productions. She said the David Street Station (Casper’s new downtown plaza), the Old Yellowstone garage and the grounds at the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo facilities will all be used for events.
Housing visitors is another key issue and Kreder said six local hotels are already sold out, with over 1,000 reservations, and the city has rented 15 tent and RV campsites, as well. Several new hotels will also be opening this year and they will add to the list of available rooms, she added. Kreder also said that managing traffic to allow people to move in, around and out of the city will be another major concern for planners. But she praised Casper people because “everybody is willing to do their part.”
The eclipse will reach Casper at 11:42 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time on August 21. It is predicted to first touch the continental U.S. at about 10:13 a.m. near Salem, Ore. and it will cross over Boise, Idaho at 11:26 local time; and Grand Island, Nebraska, about 12:58 local. The Moon’s shadow, which is actually what we perceive as an eclipse, is a 228,000 mile tapering cone that travels from West to East.
There will be a brief video production discussing eclipses running continuously at the Parkway Plaza all day on the Sunday prior to the eclipse.