Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
The 2017 total solar eclipse will be visible across the contiguous United States and will be a scientific marvel and a potentially life-changing experience for people who view it. Franklin is fortunate to be one of the few cities in the pathway of the total eclipse and for more than two minutes around 2 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 21, Franklin will be consumed by total darkness. Experts on the eclipse have warned that the eclipse will likely create a logistical nightmare, with thousands of people gathering in the few prime locations across the country where the eclipse will be visible.
At 2:35 p.m. that day, the disc of the moon will move fully in front of the sun, casting a shadow across the Earth’s surface. The sky will turn dark, the air will cool, animals may well act as if it were nighttime and stars will be visible.
From Oregon to South Carolina, cities inside the 70-mile-wide path of the solar eclipse will experience darkness in the middle of the day. This is the first time in 26 years that America has seen a total solar eclipse.
While federal agencies, including NASA, are bracing for the event and trying to prepare communities in the eclipse’s path for the event, Macon County’s Tourism Development Commission and Franklin’s Tourism Development Authority are working on ways to not just promote Franklin to the captive audience who will inevitably travel to town to view the event, but to help local businesses and organizations plan events throughout the weekend for the thousands of visitors to enjoy while in town.
During a joint meeting of the Franklin TDA and TDC on Monday, board members noted that while hotels are nearly booked for event and were beginning to fill a year prior to the event’s date, having thousands of people in town is an opportunity they should capitalize on. Both the TDC and TDA provide funding throughout the year to businesses and organizations for events that promote tourism in the county. With the magnitude of an event the solar eclipse is expected to be and the economic benefit it can have for all of Macon County, members of the TDC and TDA are seeking specific grant requests to help businesses and organizations hold events and plan things for the weekend leading up to eclipse.
Neighboring counties of Jackson and Rabun counties, who will experience the total eclipse, but not to the extent of Franklin, for some time have been promoting an array of activities for the weekend of the eclipse.
In Jackson County, Friday night kicks off with Concerts on the Creek in Sylva and Groovin’ on the Green in Cashiers. Saturday is an arts and crafts festival in Dillsboro along with educational panels about the eclipse.
In Rabun County, Bluegrass on the Square is planned in Tallulah Falls, an Eclipse Golf Tournament and 19th Hole Festivities at Sky Valley Country Club and informational events and eclipse lectures from experts at the Rearden Theater on the campus of Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School.
Counties across the country have been working for months to promote the eclipse and make the weekend something that can ideally encourage visitors to want to return. Macon County is still working to get organized but with the help of the TDC and TDA providing grants to help market and organize events by individuals in the community, hopefully August 21 will be a day to go down in county history.