Bend Oregon Lights

From Heavy Prepping to Powerful Partnerships, Communities are "Bringing It".

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     ODMO Communications 

    From Heavy Prepping to Powerful Partnerships, Communities are “Bringing It” for the Eclipse.

    More than epic preparations, the eclipse has necessitated partnerships across Oregon communities presenting a golden opportunity for our destination to shine.

    Thankfully we all survived Oregon’s celestial shining moment as the last visitors left the “path of totality” and headed back to where they came from last week. It was expected that over one million visitors would arrive in Oregon for this once-in-a-lifetime event drawing visitors from around the world. And that’s what the region planned for. Central Oregon was ground zero for a majority of the eclipse festivities, including everything from multi-day music, beer and food festivals to scientific talks and even an incredible eclipse experience hosted by Airbnb for one lucky winner.

    Working Together

    Federal, state and local agencies from three counties in Oregon — Jefferson, Deschutes, and Crook — worked together to set up a multi-agency coordination center at Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond, Oregon. It was the largest pre-planned response effort in the history of the tri-county area to coordinate emergency response and information before and after the eclipse.

    Sergeant Nathan Garibay, Emergency Manager of the Special Services Unit of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s office, explained “We have been working with a variety of agencies and organizations. Although it would be difficult to provide an exhaustive list, some examples include fire agencies (local, state, federal), public health, hospitals, clinics — even medical examiners and funeral homes — utility companies, Red Cross, land management agencies, chambers of commerce and visitor bureaus, fuel distributors, etc. The eclipse planning differs from other events in that it affects (or has the potential to affect) nearly every service that residents and visitors receive. Trying to plan for a doubling of our region’s population requires organizations to think outside the box.”

    Visitor Overload

    From empty gas pumps to long grocery store lines to garbage pick-ups at midnight, the region prepared itself for the influx of visitors. Even Oregon’s smallest county, Wheeler County, was expected to attract 50,000 visitors. Mitchell, the largest town in the county with a population of 150, was bracing itself for the challenges that may come from visitor overload, but the business community embraced the event hoping to attract more future visitors to the town of Mitchell, not far from Oregon’s Painted Hills.

    “It’s been extraordinary to see multiple organizations working together on a strategic plan for this rare event in Central Oregon. The community support has been impressive” says Kevney Dugan, Visit Bend’s CEO. “This made Visit Bend’s role of sharing streamlined information with visitors easy while utilizing our Visit Like a Local messaging to ensure each and every visitor has the ultimate vacation experience they are seeking.”

    Visit Bend created the Visit Like a Local campaign in 2016 to educate visitors on ways they can tread lightly and fit in with the local culture of Bend. Messaging like “Show Some Tenderness to the Trails” or “Take Your Blinkers for a Spin” can be found on the Tourism agency’s website or emblazoned on the side of free shuttle busses buzzing between downtown and the Old Mill District. During high-traffic seasons and events like the Solar Eclipse, messaging like this reminds both locals and visitors that we all have to work together and get along.

    Spotlight on Oregon Destinations

    It’s a fact that having so many new visitors to the state has a positive economic impact now and for future tourism. The eclipse created an opportunity for some to standout and shine.

    272 Japanese tourists flocked to Kah-Nee-Ta to enjoy the total solar eclipse experience intermingled with whitewater rafting and salmon bakes. Kah-Nee-Ta has struggled with tourism since the recession so booking the entire resort was a welcome relief. The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs also partnered with NASA to bring 70 high-school and middle-school students from area tribes around the Pacific Northwest for an eclipse photo shoot via high-altitude balloons.

    Both airbnb and National Geographic’s scouting team saw an opportunity in Central Oregon to launch a big contest, which landed a lucky winner the opportunity to “glamp” in a geodesic dome outfitted with telescopes on a private piece of land situated within shadow distance of the world-famous Smith Rock. The silhouette of Smith Rock framed out the sky perfectly for unparalleled star and eclipse viewing.

    airbnb - Solar Eclipse

    In addition to cushy accommodations, they also receive gear and an intimate dinner with Dr. Jedidah Isler, a National Geographic Explorer and internationally recognized scholar who was the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Yale University. Babak Tafreshi, a National Geographic photographer and science journalist, was also onsite to teach them how to capture the night sky.

    And it gets better. On the actual day of the eclipse, they took to the sky in a private plane and watched the eclipse as it happened from the Oregon coast back to Central Oregon along the path of totality.

    Ranch at the Canyons has historically been a highly sought-after location for numerous films and commercials, due to its exclusive location and natural beauty” says Levon Guiragossian, marketing communications manager for Ginn Realty who represents Ranch at the Canyons “but this gave us a sense that The Ranch is also in a unique class of its own with regards to locational advantage for natural beauty in Central Oregon … We cannot wait to see the videos and photos from this amazing contest and see the awesome experience the winners enjoyed and how it showcases Terrebonne and Central Oregon.”

    Columbia Sportswear and Travel Oregon teamed up with Goal Zero for several live broadcasts from Smith Rock State Park before and during the eclipse. They worked with for on-location trailer accommodations and scouting for the various photo and video shoots happening throughout the weekend.

    Learning Curve

    So what are some of the lessons we learned and how can this prepare us for possible disasters or future large scale events in Oregon like the upcoming IAAF World Championships in 2021, which has been declared as the largest sporting event in the world?

    “We will refine our processes to better our response to unplanned events. We are considering this a dry run for a major disaster. The relationships and outside the box solutions will undoubtedly lead to better coordination down the road.” adds Sergeant Garibay.

    Guiragossian stated “You learn an incredible amount interacting with a world-class team like airbnb’s, including their carefully selected event partners which are all at the very top of their respected fields. You’re not only working with their talent making the event a reality, but you also have front row seats for the operational side of rolling-out an event that is effectively the first of its kind.”

    We’d like to give a round of hurrahs to all the counties and organizations throughout Oregon for working together to pull off a humongous event! See you at the next Oregon eclipse on October 5, 2108 happening at the Oregon coast, or July 25, 2169 when the path of totality will include Portland!

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