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Are We Ready?

By Jim Mikula, President/CEO

In less than two weeks we will all know the answer to a question that has been asked for at least three years: how many visitors will Fredericksburg and Gillespie experience for the Eclipse on April 8?

The Gillespie County Eclipse Task Force was formed in 2021 and was co-chaired by Justin Calhoun, Gillespie County Emergency Management Coordinator, and Jennifer Krupa, City’s Special Events Coordinator. The task force included representatives from law enforcement, fire departments, FISD, state and national parks, CVB, churches, HEB, and hospital, to name a few. The group communicated with different communities to gather lessons learned from the 2017 eclipse, and held its last meeting on March 19. It was standing room only.

The number of visitors to expect in our small town and picturesque county is an estimate. It’s an educated guess based on information gained from the communities who were under the 2017 eclipse, projections from various government agencies, our own experience with various festivals such as Oktoberfest (40,000 visitors), and a key decision made early on that we – both our City and County - would not actively promote our community as a destination to experience the eclipse.

As of the March 19 meeting, the CVB’s research had city/county hotels, RV parks and short-term rentals at 83% occupancy. We also learned that Kerr County, which promoted the area as a destination for the eclipse, had not sold out either. So far, we are aware that some local lodging and Enchanted Rock’s campsites have sold out. Will all our lodging fill up by April 8? Possibly.

With all the unknowns about the number of visitors – including day-trippers, it is prudent to be prepared for 100,000 visitors on April 8 in the County. Government, businesses and other major elements of our community have put together their plans for the eclipse and will be executing those plans over the next 12 days.

Methodist Hill Country Hospital will increase staffing and supplies plus a helicopter will be stationed at the hospital. HEB will increase its inventories and will have support from HEB's Emergency operations center.

Police and Sheriff’s departments will have all officers and deputies on duty and will be supplemented by private security companies.

We - local citizens – should also be preparing, as well. Proper eye protection is top of the safety list. Eclipse glasses are available at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center, CTEC has glasses for its members, and various stores around town have glasses for sale. Plan to get your grocery shopping done well before the eclipse visitors start arriving. Check your first-aid supplies and make sure your medication refills are up-to-date. Be sure your vehicles are fueled up. If the local gas stations run out of fuel, it could take several days before the stations are refueled after the eclipse. Cellular phone services could be interrupted due to the number of cell phones in use. Local law enforcement and fire departments will have satellite phones to maintain communication if cell service is interrupted.

Last, but not least, know where you and yours plan to view the big event…and get there in plenty of time. If you’re going to drive that morning, plan for an extra cushion of travel time. My wife and I planned to get to a great high spot for the annular eclipse last October, and we carelessly left too late to get to there. We had to stop the truck a few hundred yards short, in order to grab our eclipse glasses, jump out of the vehicle and get a few pictures. We won’t be repeating that mistake!

With all our planning there is one unknown at this time: what will the weather be? There is a great old quote, “Climate is what we expect, but weather is what we Get.” The National Weather Service will hold daily weather forecast webinars starting April 1.

Being an Eagle Scout, this is the time to follow the Boy Scouts motto—Be Prepared.

For more details and information please visit the task force’s website

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