National and local media were on hand, at the intersection of South Ash and West Yellowstone Highway, when organizers and departmental officials took center stage to welcome visitors and applaud the successful launch of the Eclipse Festival.
Casper’s Mayor Kenyne Humphrey introduced a panel of officials including Casper Fire-EMS Chief Kenny King, Casper Police Detective John Hatcher, Executive Director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism Diane Schober, Casper Area Convention & Visitors Bureau CEO Brook Kreder, and Wyoming Eclipse Festival Executive Director Anna Wilcox.
Following a lead from the mayor, King and Hatcher explained their roles and their departments measures to ensure a safe weekend. Chief King explained that they had brought on more staff and took a very mathematical approach. Planning on the population doubling, King said that Casper Fire-EMS doubled their staff, and has seen about double in call volume.
Det. Hatcher said that the Casper Police Department did research in other communities, such as New Orleans, LA and Sturgis, SD to see how they handled their trademark large festivals. Further, approximately 100 officers are employed by the Casper Police Department, and Hatcher said that each one is on duty. Police have been making regular foot rounds in densely populated areas as a visible deterrent for trouble makers and as a community outreach.
Diane Schober congratulated Casper on “making a dream come true.” Schober explained that the Wyoming Office of Tourism coordinated between multiple communities to organize a communication strategy regarding the eclipse. She further explained that Casper was acting as the spearhead for celebrations that are occurring in all 23 counties in the state. “Casper was the lead,” she said. “Any community who set up their festival, in their planning, followed the lead that Casper started.”
When asked to describe her role and the role of her office, Casper Area Convention & Visitors Bureau CEO Brook Kreder explained the genesis of the Festival. Kreder recalled a meeting with Chief King and then-City Manager V.H. McDonald, discussing how to accomplish the festival without hiring an outside consultant. “We pulled together five funding partners, we created a collaborative process, and in that we created the Wyoming Eclipse Festival.”
Kreder went on to congratulate emergency response teams on local and county levels, merchants, non-profit organizations, and community measures. Kreder went on to give high praise to the Wyoming Eclipse Festival Executive Director Anna Wilcox, saying that hiring Wilcox was the best decision that was made in the process.
Becoming visibly emotional Wilcox made a statement to the community at large, pointing out that all the raw ingredients for the festival were already in place. “I moved to Casper in June of 2016, and I will tell you what. Everything you’re experiencing is already here. The talent exists here. All of these businesses, these merchants, these restaurants- they all exist here. All we did, from the festival perspective, was coordinate it all together so that when you set foot here, you enjoy that and get a true, true Casper, Wyoming experience.”
“I have to say that, overall, seeing folks come in from out of town and seeing people experience Casper for the first time is amazing,” Wilcox continued. “But I’ve also been amazed by seeing the people from Casper experience this Casper.”
The Wyoming Eclipse Festival will hit its apex on Monday, August 21st, when the cosmic ballet places the city of Casper in the moon’s total shadow, for nearly 2.5 minutes, at 11:43 am.
Numbers regarding economic impact and estimated attendance are currently being gathered and will be available after analysis in a few months.