Eclipse Offers Economic Opportunity To Goshen County

Aug 18, 2017

At Torrington's H & R Block with Sally Cole, Linda Keener, Dawn Pickinpaugh -- in order from left to right
Credit Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

On a sunny day in downtown Torrington, local businesses are getting ready for the solar eclipse that’s now only days away. The H & R Block is one of them — accountants there are selling original eclipse-themed t-shirts. There’s a table outside, with black and white shirts of all sizes hung up behind it.

“So, what was the inspiration to make these shirts and to sell them here?” I asked. 

“Bills!” Sally Cole replied.

Cole, a tax professional at the bank, said she initially didn’t plan on doing anything special for the eclipse, “and then we started hearing about all the activities and the people that were coming in and so I thought we might as well try it."

Downtown Torrington
Credit Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

Her black and white t-shirts show the sun with the moon placed over most of it. Under the design are the words, “Where Were You When the Lights Went Out.” 

Cole said they’ve been selling like hotcakes.

H & R Block is one of the many businesses in town doing something special to benefit from the total solar eclipse, which will pass over the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina. Goshen County lies along that path.

Ashley Harpstreigh, CEO of the county's Economic Development Corporation, said it’s a unique opportunity for the town’s economy and it’s coming at a good time. There’s the statewide economic downturn, plus the local sugar-beet factory is set to close soon. The factory has historically been considered the backbone of Torrington’s economy. Harpstreigh said she's confident people will find other jobs, but the town’s going through a transition.

Flyer for a Torrington-based party after the eclipse
Credit Permission from McKinley and La'More Creative Consulting

“I’m really excited for these little stores to have a big boost of people coming in to buy their products and maybe making a lasting impression where they keep coming back to buy their products,” Harpstreigh said.

She added, there could also be a long-term economic impact from the increased tax revenue — lodging, gas, sales. Plus, the festivities could attract visitors to start a business or a family in Goshen. More immediately though, local businesses will enjoy a surge in sales simply due to new visitors.

“The expectations are our county population at least doubling if not getting larger than that,” Harpstreigh said.

That means the county will go from about 13,000 people to more than 26,000. Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts in the area have been booked for weeks.

Harpstreigh said, on eclipse day, Torrington is going to look completely different.

“Right in the middle of where we are right now, between 20th and 21st, there will be vendors lining the streets and different types of activities going on,” she said.

Eclipse-themed cookies at a bakery called The Bread Doctor in Torrington
Credit Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

That includes bouncy houses for kids, live music, and special food options from the restaurants. Elsewhere in the area, there’s scheduled to be special horse trail rides, mud races with monster trucks, blue and yellow eclipse-themed cookies, car shows, and much more. so much fun.

At the largest winery in Wyoming, there’s going to be a huge outdoor celebration. Patrick Zimmerer is with Table Mountain Vineyards and Winery located in Huntley.

“And the name of our event, or I guess the event theme, is Total Eclipse of the Farm,” Zimmerer said. 

The winery will have a concert with several local acts, a special wine on sale, and land for anyone to set up a campsite. Zimmerer said the event is actually becoming too popular.

“We’re kind of looking at ways to probably slow down registration, even slow down the tickets, because we don’t want it be a massive, crazy Woodstock.” Zimmerer said, “It’s turned out to be much more successful than ever in our wildest dreams 

Another business is preparing for eclipse celebrations. Lindy Ellis is with Ellis Harvest Home.

“We are planning a parking, viewing, creamed-can dinner event at the pumpkin patch and maze that our family runs on the day of the eclipse,” said Ellis.

She added, it’s the tenth anniversary for the maze, so her family made a special design with the sun, moon and some stars with the words Eclipse 2017 at the bottom.

Ellis Harvest Home 2017 Maze
Credit Permission from Lindy Ellis

Her business is also letting people park by the maze to watch the solar event. 

With much to look forward to, the county has some concerns about how they’re going to handle so many people. Many of the roads leading to Torrington and surrounding areas have only one lane — plus there’s frequent trains passing through. Officials encourage visitors to be patient.

The total eclipse will begin in Goshen County at 11:46 am, lasting 2 minutes and one second.