Wednesday, July 19, 2017
We’ve been writing a lot about the Great American Eclipse, with more stories to come each week until Aug. 23. We’ve learned a lot about the phenomenon, what to expect, and what the worst-case scenarios could be.
A lot of people will come to Polk County, with estimates ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.
Things such as weather and smoke from wildfires will play a part in how many come for the big event on Aug. 21. If everything goes well, we will still very likely see a lot of traffic and people in our community who don’t usually come to rural Polk County.
Some people are already dreading it — preferring to stock up and preparing to bunker down for the week. Others are excited for the opportunity.
The cities are opening up parks for out-of-towners to camp, and landowners are doing the same.
For cities and the chambers, the point of planning these events isn’t so much to make money for themselves, but to provide quality entertainment and events for visitors. If people have fun while in our area, they will spend more money here, boosting the local economy by supporting local businesses.
They’ll eat in our restaurants, and drink at our watering holes and coffee shops. They’ll pick up trinkets and souvenirs at our shops. When they leave — if we show them a good time — they may go online and continue to support our local businesses. Maybe they’ll consider moving here and opening up their own business, providing jobs and tax dollars.
The idea isn’t to collect $300 a night for camping at one of our public parks — honestly, those costs will likely pay for cleanup, but wouldn’t really help the general fund — but to showcase all the great things we love about our county and towns to people who would otherwise never put Polk County on their bucket list of must-see destinations.
Go ahead and be prepared for a week or so, as though we were expecting a hurricane unlike we’ve seen in Polk County, but, unlike in a hurricane, be ready to enjoy the party that comes with it.
Smile at strangers. Take time to give them directions or suggestions of what to do and see in our town. Be patient with each other, tourists, traffic, law enforcement and first responders. If we all plan and work together, maybe that week will go off without a hitch and we can all enjoy it safely.
It’s only going to be for a week, and it’s not going to happen again in Polk County for more than 100 years.