Did it really happen? Six exciting and crazy days leading up to the ultimate 2 minutes and 9 seconds of Totality. For us here at Families on the road, these last few days volunteering at the festival have been nothing short of amazing.
Our epic journey began about a year ago when we first heard that Madras, Oregon was offering a SolarFest and it would be in the line of Totality. We quickly signed on to volunteer with this organization and our experience as volunteers was a fantastic one. We received a free campsite, lanyard, meal vouchers and T-shirt for working three 8-hour shifts. All of our shifts were during the day which allowed us plenty of time to enjoy this unique festival. The fest was held at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, which consisted of a Main stage for concerts, Full RV hook ups, dry tent camping, indoor bounce house facilities, restrooms and showers and a gigantic wooden barn for the bar.
Since they were expecting about 100,000 people during the Eclipse, the fest set up Solartown, a unique campground set in a farmers field with over 5,500 sites available for all kinds of campers. This location was about 4 miles out of town along a high ridge line, perfect for viewing the eclipse. In fact it was the location of choice for NASA as well as many celebrities. The organizers offered school bus shuttles to and from town for a nominal fee, but they were soon overrun by the amount of people who showed up to camp.
We arrived Thursday night to about a 1/2 mile traffic back up, but within 2 hours were were in our tent site, and looking forward to 5 star filled nights of camping. Solartown was about 35% filled upon our arrival and continued to grow each day until Sunday morning when it reached capacity and the National Guard was called in to assist this tiny little town of 5,000 people. The entire length of Highway 26 was basically a parking lot coming into the area. We were super happy that we arrived early and missed all the traffic issues.
The festival offered over 30 unique vendors featuring art, jewelry, organic novelties and much more. The food vendors ranged from ice cream, shaved ice, Bar-b-que, Chinese food, wood-fired pizza, Greek food and enough to get your fill. Some of the vendors were concerned early on that the crowd size was not what they expected, but by late Sunday night many were completely exhausted from the amount of business they did. NASA was considered to be the premier authority on-site and they provided lectures as well as informative literature to everyone who stopped by. Unfortunately, the building which housed NASA was extremely small without proper air-conditioning and made for an uncomfortable experience. The Musical line-up ranged from local musicians to cover band experiences.