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3 minutes, 37 seconds

OPINION by Mark Gregory | March 26, 2023 at 4:04 a.m.

Back in August 2017, Bill Solleder, the marketing director for Visit Hot Springs, mentioned the creation of what seemed at the time to be a tongue-in-cheek event on the VHS Facebook page.

That was to "save the date" for Monday, April 8, 2024, when Hot Springs falls in the path of totality of a solar eclipse. I remember some of us scoffing at the time about the audacity of promoting an event seven years in the future ... kind of a Doc Brown DeLorean vibe, if you get my drift.

My, how time flies, even without a flux capacitor. Guess what, folks? April 8, 2024, is now only a little over a year away.

Are we ready?

Solleder told us a couple of years later that the Facebook event was made on the heels of the 2017 solar eclipse, after hearing about the experience of Casper, Wyoming, which also had been in the path of totality -- and got slammed by an influx of 1 million visitors.

That initial posting in 2017 received an "overwhelming response" from people -- 71,000 were interested in being here in 2024. And keep in mind, that was six years ago now.

"This unique distinction, along with long durations and the tourist amenities offered by the city, will make Hot Springs a popular viewing destination on April 8," VHS stated in the Facebook post at the time.

According to VHS, the totality will last for about 3 minutes and 37 seconds in downtown Hot Springs, starting at 1:49:29 p.m. Hot Springs National Park itself is one of only two national parks located along the path of totality.

Hop in the DeLorean again to July 2021, when Forbes included Hot Springs National Park as a "key location" to watch the eclipse.

Brook Kaufman, CEO of Visit Casper in Wyoming, gave a presentation to officials in October of that year explaining what the similarly positioned city did right and wrong to prepare for the wave of visitors four years ago.

Though they knew it was coming, Kaufman said it took their community a very long time to figure out who would be in charge of planning, with different agencies being hesitant to act. They ended up forming a separate 501(c)(3) for the Wyoming Eclipse Festival to handle staff, insurance, and other matters.

This gave them the benefit of having a dedicated resource and leader for the event, something she said really helped and also mitigated risk by affording a degree of separation from the city and county in case something went wrong.

Kaufman said they also created an "A-team" that involved County Health, medical centers, game and fish, city services and more, without anyone being in charge.

Visit Hot Springs has established a "micro-website" at that includes basics of the event, a map, a countdown clock -- which, as of this publication, will stand at a year and 14 days remaining -- and information on lodging and who to contact for more information.

If you're interested in the mechanics of the event more than the hype, be sure and visit NASA's Facebook page and scroll down to their eclipse post. It'll take you over to a website with a glorious high-resolution map that shows the precise projected path it will take across the United States, stretching from Texas to Maine, along with the path of the annular eclipse that will occur on Oct. 14 of this year, which is roughly from Oregon to Texas.

According to the NASA site, on both dates, all 48 contiguous states in the U.S. will experience at least a partial solar eclipse, as will Mexico and most of Canada.

Only those in the path of the total eclipse will experience the ghostly-white outer atmosphere of the sun (the corona) when the moon completely blocks the sun's disk, according to NASA, while those in the path of the annular eclipse will experience the infamous "ring of fire" as the moon blocks all but the outer edge of the sun.

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