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Officials prepare for eclipse


Several government officials and community leaders met in the City Council Chambers on Wednesday, Feb. 14, to discuss plans for the solar eclipse that will affect Boone County on Monday, April 8.

Mayor Jerry Jackson said it was important to be prepared for the 1.5 million tourists entering the state, as some expect.

Cat Schoubroeck from the visitor’s center said they are prepared with paper maps, eclipse glasses, and apparel that reads, “Are You Ready for the Dark?”

Weekend before the eclipse, April 5-7

Several activities will be scheduled for the Friday and Saturday before the eclipse. Matt Bell and Kyle Strain from Explore Harrison modeled the eclipse-themed hoodies they had designed that read, “Get Mooned in Boone County.” The public can purchase clothing with the eclipse logo from Impact Tees.

On the Friday night before the eclipse, Rotary will sponsor Music on the Square, 5:30 p.m.—10 p.m. with NEWCO performing at 6:30 p.m.

On the following Saturday, events will begin at 9 a.m. and finish at 10 p.m. National Park Radio will perform on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

The Entertainment District will be open, and Neno’s Place and the 1929 Hotel Seville will participate from 4:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Saturday, there will be food vendors and many activities for children and retail vendors.

Also, Saturday evening will be an Eclipse 5K Night Run sponsored by North Arkansas Regional Medical Center. The hospital plans to have additional emergency room staff for the eclipse weekend because of the sheer volume of people expected in the area.

Eclipse day

On Monday, The Boone County Library will host Eclipse on the Street from noon until 3 p.m. More than 25 vendors, food trucks, a bouncy house, and activities for all ages will be available. The week before the eclipse, a miniature planetarium will teach the public about stars and constellations. The activities will include a star finder. The library also has eclipse glasses free for the public in March.

North Arkansas College is hosting a Zombie Apocalypse Bike Race at the course adjacent to the campus with prizes for the best costumes. There will also be lots of science activities for visitors.

Fire Chief Marc Lowery said his team would be available to assist. “We will be fully staffed with additional manpower to call in if needed.”

Assistant Police Chief John Cagle said he is in the process of securing side-by-sides, which would allow the police to drive off-road during an emergency if traffic is at a standstill.

Public Works COO Wade Phillips said his team would get out of the way. “We won’t be doing non-emergency street repairs during that time and will be available to assist other departments as needed.”

Phillips also explained the Arkansas DOT is concerned about the mass exodus after the eclipse causing traffic jams. “We will have staff on duty at main intersections along Hwy. 65 who can manually operate the signal lights to speed up the traffic flow.”

Bell reported local hotels still have some rooms available. Schoubroeck from the Welcome Center reported that all National Parks spaces are booked.

Parks and Rec Director Chuck Eddington said they are not scheduling any sporting events for that weekend. “If the hotels and area RV parks fill up in advance, we will open some city-owned parking lots for RVs.”

Airport Manager Judy McCutcheon said she’s jealous of the activity other airports will get who are in totality areas. “We have additional fuel ordered — 10,000 gallons of AvGas and 12,000 gallons of jet fuel, with the trucks fully loaded. Hopefully, we will get more traffic as the time gets closer.”

Chamber representative Amy Deere said they are still getting calls from locals who know nothing about the eclipse and how to be prepared. “We are directing most people to the ExploreHarrison.com website.

The Boone County Health Unit will take walk-ins that day but not schedule appointments.

Daniel Bolen with the Office of Emergency Management said they will have an additional mobile tower to assist in receiving emergency calls.

“We will do what we always do and take care of emergency calls,” Bolen said. “If cell towers are jammed, texts will get through to 911. Be sure to give clear, concise information about the emergency and the address.”

A list is being prepared for ExploreHarrison.com to make suggestions for locals to have on hand and what guests need to bring into the area to be ready.

The officials feel it is very important for everyone to funnel activity information and Q&As to that one site. So guests coming through or staying here will all receive the same information.

When Mayor Jackson wrapped up the first meeting last year, he reminded the leaders that his goal was to showcase Harrison and the community in a welcoming light. “I’d like to see all the businesses with LED signs to say ‘Welcome to Harrison.’ We want them to enjoy their time driving through or spending the weekend here.”

There will be a lot more detailed information to come. Watch ExploreHarrison.com to see the combined schedule of events and information.

The next Eclipse meeting for community leaders is set for Wednesday at 3 p.m. on April 3.


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