All out for the eclipse

Aug 25, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

We made quite an effort preparing for the eclipse

Was it worth it?

As Monday fades to history, that question might well be on the minds of a lot of us. In our own ways, some elaborately and some simply, most of us did something in anticipation of a day we knew probably would be unique in both our personal lives and the life of the community, even if we couldn't quite predict how.

It was long understood that central Fremont County was going to be among the top viewing vantage points in the entire nation for the eclipse. Local citizens became aware as well of a large and enthusiastic community of eclipse chasers worldwide, people who plan vacations around eclipse days, sizing up when the eclipses are coming, where viewing is supposed to be most advantageous, and how to get to those places.

And that happened. A big -- very big -- crowd of out-of-town visitors did show up to see the eclipse. It's probable that never before have Lander, Riverton, Shoshoni, Dubois, Pavillion and Crowheart been the specific destination points for so many people at the same time. The State of Wyoming estimates the population of our state doubled, briefly, on Monday.

So we spiffed ourselves up as best we could. We planned special events, store and restaurant promotions, and drummed up as much publicity about ourselves as possible.

But why did we do it? The eclipse was happening regardless of whether the street sweeper made an extra pass or the curbs had been newly painted. The positioning of the sun and the moon in space had nothing to do with extra trash cans and portable toilets on the ground.

So why go to the trouble? Why not let the visitors come, see the eclipse, then depart? We would have saved ourselves time, effort, money, and a fair amount of worry.

Chalk it up to pride. We don't mean the seven-deadly-sins sort of pride, but pride of place, pride of person, pride of geography, pride of cooperation and effort.

We had a choice, and we opted to do our best instead of the alternative. Yes, there was some financial incentive for us, but the visitors were going to have to eat, fill up their gas tanks, and hit the grocery store for snacks to cover the drive home no matter what we did. A festival in the park probably wouldn't have changed any of those necessities.

We wanted to do better than we needed to. We wanted to demonstrate to our fellow human beings that we knew they were coming, that they were coming here for a positive reason, that we shared their enthusiasm, and that we wanted them to share our enthusiasm for where we live -- just for a day or two.

The sky show was dynamite. But the great eclipse of 2017 was more than our once-in-a-a lifetime opportunity to see the disappearance of the sun over our own Fremont County skies. With the spotlight of the nation on us, it also was the opportunity to say "Here we are. If you have chosen to come here, then you have chosen wisely. And, perhaps you'll come back even when there isn't a celestial performance of global magnitude."

One sign of a healthy community is knowing that something will be worth it even before it happens. The doing of it it is simply affirmation. Was it worth it? The answer is obvious. In 89 years, let's do it again.