The Great American Eclipse will be here before you know it, and while there are a lot of uncertainties about how many people will be in Macon County or what the weather will be like that day, here are some concrete things people need to know to make sure they are prepared.
1) How to see.
When it comes to wearing the right type of glasses to safely view this month’s solar eclipse, there’s more than meets the eye. Officials are warning people — those looking to buy the special lenses that allow you to stare directly at an eclipse as it’s happening — to steer clear of phony or counterfeit products being sold, which can cause eye damage.
The proper lenses should meet what’s called “ISO 12312-2” (sometimes written as “ISO 12312-2:2015”) international safety standards, according to the group. Accredited manufacturers print a logo bearing this identifying mark on their products and packaging.
Franklin Town Manager Summer Woodard said the 2,000 pairs of glasses the town will be giving out on Monday, Aug. 21, are all approved glasses. The Chamber of Commerce has also been selling approved glasses for $1, with 10,000 being sold to date and another 5,000 on the way this week. Several businesses also have approved glasses for sale.
2) Where to park.
Experts predict tens of thousands of people could be in Macon County leading up to the eclipse, with the county’s population potentially doubling. The chamber estimates that there are about 400 rooms (hotel, motel, bed and breakfast) and at least 100 cottages, cabins and vacation homes of various sizes located in Macon County, all of which are booked up and have been booked up well in advanced of the big day. Rumors are circulating about lodging facilities cancelling reservations made well in advanced, just to resell the rooms now for a larger rate. The chamber has been notified of two such occasions, from families in California and Florida, both of which were able to find other accommodations.
With so many people planning to spend the weekend in Macon County, parking can be tricky. Woodard noted that all town roads and parking will be open with the exception of a small strip of Iotla Street. Downtown businesses are offering to sell spots for parking in prime locationsand East Franklin Elementary will be taking donations in exchange for parking spaces for the event.
The Forest Service cautions against parking in restricted areas. Parking is not allowed in or on roads, and at sites with “No Parking” signs. If a vehicle is impeding the flow of traffic, it will be towed, Forest Service officials said in a release. When parking on a roadside, be aware that unseen ditches often parallel roads. Natural resources and vehicles can be damaged while entering or exiting a ditch and vehicles frequently require towing from these areas.
3) What’s Open?
Main Street in Franklin will be open. The road will not be closed for the Franklin Block Party, which will be confined to Iotla Street. On Sunday, Aug. 20, Main Street merchants who are normally closed will be open Sunday afternoon from 1 to 6 p.m., and will open early on Monday, Aug.21, the day of the eclipse, beginning at 8 a.m. with many staying open late in the evening.
The Town of Franklin offices will be open, as will town hall, but Macon County government offices will be closed. Essential services such as law enforcement, emergency services, convenience centers, and IT staff will be either on call or working as normal. The postal service will run as usual, but expect delays due to an increase in traffic in the area.
4) Who to call?
With an increase in visitors to the area, emergency personnel will likely have their hands full. Avoid calling 911 unless it’s an emergency. To reach Macon County Emergency Services offices, call (828)349-2067. The Franklin Chamber of Commerce can be reached at (828)524-3161 and Franklin Town Hall can be reached at (828)524-2516.
5) How to celebrate!
The most important thing to know, is how to celebrate this once in a lifetime event. While you may want to stay home and avoid the crowds, being right in the middle of it all may be the experience for you, and if so, there will be several opportunities. Franklin will be hosting a Solar Eclipse Block Party beginning at 10 a.m. downtown. Beginning at 1 p.m., the first 100 people will receive a free Moon Pie and ice cold RC Cola in a bottle. There will be activities for kids, live music, and games in the downtown area.
Festivities begin at 11 a.m. at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts with a block party DJ on the front lawn, while inside the theatre, watch a live video stream provided by NASA as some of their top scientists share commentary as the eclipse happens. From 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., enjoy a free concert with Mountain Faith Band on the front lawn and more DJ fun from 1:30 to 2 p.m., all leading up to the climactic event at 2:35 p.m. Concessions, commemorative souvenir gifts and viewing glasses will be available for purchase all day.
From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Franklin Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a viewing party at its new location at 98 Hyatt Road and will include music, hot dogs, chips and drinks.
Entegra Bank’s celebration of the Total Solar Eclipse Event will be held at the Entegra Bank Corporate Center, 14 One Center Court Franklin. There will be giveaways, refreshments, and fun for everyone. If you have any further questions, call Entegra Bank at (828)524-7000 ext 2527.