Wyoming: Solar eclipse event huge success

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CHEYENNE, Wyo.- "It's definitely safe to say that this was the largest one-day event that Wyoming has ever seen." Those were the words from Media and Public Relations Manager Tia Troy of the Wyoming Office of Tourism.

The 2017 Solar Eclipse from NASA's GIII aircraft, Photo Date: 8/21/2017 (MGN)

Diane Shober, the Wyoming Office of Tourism's executive director, agreed. Shober says Cheyenne Frontier Days is definitely one of the largest events in the state, but even when adding all the events collectively across the state taking place during the same time, she says there's no way it would even come close.

WYDOT Public Affairs Manager Doug McGee reported more than 550,000 additional vehicles in their traffic count on Monday, August 21. Then on Tuesday, August 22, those numbers for statewide traffic lowered to 244,000 additional vehicles. McGee says Laramie County saw the largest increase with more than 63,560 vehicles above average, with heavy traffic all along I-25 and I-80.

McGee says the numbers are not hard numbers at this time since vehicles may have been counted three or four times depending on their route. The Wyoming Office of Tourism says they plan to have a full economic impact analysis that will have more reliable numbers of visitor volume and spending in October.

The Office of Tourism says they saw a majority of visitors that were first-time visitors as well as visitors spending an average of four days in the state. In addition, Shober says they were happy with the steady increase of visitors, but saw the real boom of traffic on Monday.

Sergeant Kyle McKay of Wyoming Highway Patrol reported 1,813 events, 100 crashes and only one fatal accident in the Medicine Bow National Forest area. Although the numbers were higher than the previous year, he said they were surprisingly low considering the heavy traffic and extent of delays. McKay said, "I think this says a lot... that they weren't driving distracted."

One of the main concerns for Wyoming Game and Fish was the impact of visitors on wildlife and the land. However, Renny MacKay of Game and Fish says visitors were very respectful of the land and appreciative of the opportunity to be in Wyoming.

Lori Hogan of Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources agreed. She said four parks in the path of totality, even with full capacity, didn't have many issues. Hogan said she was in Glendo and added, "They left the place beautiful, clean with very little impact to our state parks."