From Thursday through Tuesday, the city of Madras was in the spotlight like never before — the focus of national and international media, in the run-up to and aftermath of the Great American Eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21.
As the location that many — including NASA and Lowell Observatory — considered the country's best place to view the total solar eclipse, the city was the destination of tens of thousands of visitors.
"I think we hit 100,000, absolutely," said Lysa Vattimo, event coordinator for the city, who had been working for the past couple of years to ensure that the event ran smoothly.
"You look at the flyover from KATU (Channel 2), and you look at this morning's traffic, and the writing's on the wall," said Vattimo on Tuesday, as Fourth and Fifth streets were nearly bumper to bumper with the visitors' exodus. "They were just dispersed so well, we didn't see them."
By Friday afternoon, the larger campgrounds had already amassed at least 45,000 people. "That doesn't count all the residences and the residents who had visitors," she said, noting that the visitors were slowly absorbed by the campgrounds and traffic was relatively normal.
"At first, people said, 'Where are all the people?'"
"We thought the traffic would be so bad on Sunday that they'd have to leave early in the morning to get here from Bend," said Vattimo, pointing out that the commute only took about 45 minutes. "Because of that trickle in, we didn't have that."
"Overall we had a great plan in place and implemented it to host a large influx of visitors for the special solar eclipse event," said Madras City Manager Gus Burril. "We received a lot of compliments from the folks visiting that the city, county and community members did a great job in making our guests feel welcome!"
"The city of Madras wishes to thank each of the event holders, businesses, and folks who helped assist in planning and hosting such a large group of people to our community," said Burril.
Even though the community experienced a house fire, several accidents, a fatal plane crash and a bank robbery, first-responders had no trouble reaching their destinations.
"Incidents were limited through the weekend, and thankfully, when an incident occurred, our emergency responders and neighbors were able to immediately respond and assist," said Burril.
Shortly after the total eclipse ended at 10:21 a.m., many visitors immediately took to the highways to catch flights or drive home. "The ones who waited — look at the glorious commute they had," said Vattimo.
All in all, the city was well-prepared with an emergency route, portable cell towers, port-a-potties and trash receptacles scattered throughout the city, traffic cameras and video message boards supplied by the Oregon Department of Transportation, as well as staffing from many agencies to handle the crowds.
"There were some challenges at some of the locations, but people have commented that they had access to trash cans and port-a-potties," said Vattimo. "I said all along, if we present our town as spic and span and give them what they need to keep it that way, they'll treat it that way. Everybody rose to the occasion."