Eclipse notes: Event crowds smaller than expected, but mighty happy

October, 2017 Posted in Community, Nature

By Mary Owen

The Great American Eclipse turned out to be a time of quality over quantity, with no lack of special activities throughout the Santiam Canyon and less people than expected.

“Although we did not have the anticipated traffic or crowding problems presented by the larger media outlets, we did indeed have a welcome influx of interesting visitors,” said Carmelle Bielenberg, president/CEO of the Stayton Sublimity Chamber of Commerce, a sponsor of Friday night’s Howl at the Moon.

“It was a humbling experience to share our love for our local community with people from all over the globe. We had overwhelmingly positive feedback from tourists to our area, praising both the natural beauty, as well as the friendly, helpful people they encountered during their time here.”

Bielenberg said SSCOC received well over 600 people at the Visitor Center in the course of the four-day eclipse weekend.

“We met interesting travelers from all over the world that are eager to return to our area and further explore what it has to offer,” she said.

Lower numbers helped local campsite providers “flawlessly” handle eclipse visitors, promoter Scott Ingalls said.

Ingalls added, “Our guests were constantly complimentary on the site and the overall event. We had folks from all over the world, with most of them from California and Washington. Folks were also able to go tour Silver Falls, or the covered bridges, or go to some of the area events as part of River Fusion 22 without any traffic issues. It turned out very well!”

An estimated 800 to 1,000 visitors stopped in at Mill City to view what more than 45 vendors had for sale, according to organizers of the River City Music & Art Jamboree.

“The VIP area had about 100 folks. The beer garden, hosted by the Trio Tavern, was well organized and attended,” said spokesperson Tom Peters.

Bielenberg and her colleagues were excited to experience the outcome of the Howl at the Moon Block Party in downtown Stayton on the Friday night prior to the eclipse.

“It was great to see so many people enjoying themselves, getting to know their neighbors, and patronizing local Third Avenue businesses,” she said. “I think it was a successful inaugural event and look forward to seeing it and other opportunities like it continue and grow.”

Allison McKenzie, executive director of GROW-EDC, also commended local businesses for networking to accommodate both visitors and business owners.

“Even in the heat of all of this activity and several new events, River Fusion 22 folks remembered to send people to other places nearby,” McKenzie said. “It just came naturally to cross-pollinate as they focused on entertaining people coming to town. We’re really happy about this.”

McKenzie said visitors still have an opportunity to enter River Fusion’s Facebook contest to win a raft trip for four from eNRG Kayaking, a one-night stay at Rushing River Retreat in Idanha, two $20 gift certificates from Poppa Al’s Famous Hamburgers in Mill City, and two $25 gift certificates from Moxieberry Café in Stayton.

Now that the eclipse is over the tourism group will focus on North Santiam River Country beyond the annual River Fusion 22 festival, she said.

“Check out our new ’22 to Do Along Highway 22’ rack card on our Facebook page for an idea about where we’re going with this,” McKenzie said. “It’s designed to boost our region as a year-round outdoor recreation and beauty spot.”

Check out Eclipse and River Fusion 22 photo highlights at Facebook: Our Town / Santiam

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