Craig Palmer, owner of the OK Garage and Grocery, in Long Creek, Grant County, is bracing for a human tsunami.
His gas station-grocery-liquor store lies along the path of totality for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, where the disc of the moon will completely cover the face of the sun for about two minutes. Normally a town of about 100, if that, Long Creek looks forward to thousands of visitors streaming through for a look, Palmer said Friday.
“We’ll be overwhelmed,” he said. “We’ll go until we can’t go anymore, and that’s all we can do.”
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission is advising liquor store owners, restaurateurs and tavern owners to stock up ahead of the eclipse, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to Central Oregon. Palmer said he would put some liquor aside in the event he runs short, but he couldn’t say how much.
“No,” he said, “I haven’t gotten that far.”
Liquor stores and marijuana shops along the eclipse path, including portions of Jefferson, Crook and Deschutes counties, were already gearing up for the event when Friday brought word of another event in July that may attract thousands more people.
The annual Rainbow Family of Living Light Gathering is coming to Flagtail Meadow in the Malheur National Forest south of John Day, according to online posts and news accounts.
Palmer said the gathering will take place south and east of his location. Highway corridors to the site include the north-south route through mid-Oregon, U.S. Highway 395, and east-west routes U.S. highways 20 and 26, which both pass through Bend. U.S. Highway 26 also runs beneath the eclipse path.
“We’ve been planning for two months” for the anticipated eclipse crowds, said Jocelyn Anderson, co-owner of Plantae Health, which operates recreational marijuana dispensaries in Bend and Madras.
“We just did a round of hiring for the summer, and when it gets closer we’re going to gauge where the demand is and hire for the short term,” she said. “It’s an all-hands-on-deck kind of case.”
Preparations at Plantae include creating “event teams” tasked with making preparations, installing language apps on mobile phones to help the counter staff communicate with foreign travelers and making sure an internet hot spot is available in case broadband availability is hamstrung on the day, she said.
As for the potential to sell cannabis to attendees making their way to the Rainbow gathering, Anderson said: “It’s another opportunity; we’re happy to provide Central Oregon-grown cannabis for people to try. We’re really proud of what we do and want to be a model dispensary in Oregon. We’re so excited.”
At Central Organics, another Madras marijuana retailer, owner Mike Boynton said he’s not anticipating a boom from Rainbow customers, but he expects a large dose of chaos as eclipse day draws near.
“Yeah, it’s overwhelming,” he said Friday. “We’re definitely trying to prepare as far as hiring extra staff, stocking up on products, stuff like that. It’s hard to know because we don’t know exactly how many we’re going to see.”
Cannabis growers can call their creations just about any name they deem fit, so consumers may find a plethora of strains christened with space-related names for the event. One factor that won’t play a role is shortage, said Sam Stapleton, owner of DiamondTree dispensaries in Bend and Madras.
“There are hundreds of Tier 2 growers on line, and thousands of pounds of surplus,” Stapleton said, referring to the largest category of growers under state law. “We’re not worried about running out.”
Traffic is expected to come to a near standstill in Madras leading up to the 10 a.m. eclipse. Madras Liquor Store co-owner Jennifer Toomey said she and her husband, Jered Toomey, would park their camper behind the store and live in it for the weekend to avoid traveling on congested streets and highways. She said she’ll put aside a case or more of some popular brands as a hedge against shortages.
“We’ll stock up on big brand names like Crown Royal,” she said Wednesday in Bend.
Christie Scott, spokeswoman for the OLCC, said the agency has been encouraging Central Oregon liquor store owners to be prepared. The OLCC provides liquor from a central warehouse in Milwaukie and with highways expected to be heavily trafficked in the days around the eclipse, resupply could be problematic.
“We’ve been telling them they need to ask for extra inventory,” Scott said Friday. “And to touch base with the chamber of commerce and find out what events are going on.”
Several outdoor festivals are scheduled around the eclipse date. The largest are in Jefferson and Crook counties, the Oregon SolarFest at the Jefferson County Fair Complex and Symbiosis: Oregon Eclipse, expected to attract about 35,000 people to Big Summit Prairie east of Prineville. Temporary event licenses are required to serve alcoholic beverages at such events, but the OLCC had received no applications as of Friday, Scott said.
Sandy Forman, event coordinator for Jefferson County Tourism Group, which is behind the SolarFest, said event details required for the license application are still being worked out. Oregon Beverage Services, a Salem firm with experience with large events, is handling the Solarfest event, including the license application. A call to the company was not returned Monday.
“We have had meetings with the folks for Solar Fest in Madras and with the people planning a huge event in the Ochocos in Crook County,” Scott wrote in an email Friday. “We have not seen any applications turned in as of today for large-scale events pertaining to the eclipse.”
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