NEWBERRY — The Total Solar Eclipse has come and gone, and while Newberry will not see another one until 2078, the impact of this Eclipse has already left an impression on the county.
The estimate of how many people were here during the Eclipse is in the 10s of thousands.
Mary Alex Kopp, tourism and events coordinator at City Of Newberry Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, said that using the Jacob’s Method (based on crowd density and the area of space) Downtown Newberry had about 20,000 visitors in the blocked section of downtown.
She added if they calculated the people staying in their cars in nearby parking lots, that number would go up 5,000 to 7,000.
“Speaking with police and fire (personnel) and a couple of other people, we had crowd estimation between 35,000 and 45,000 in the city limits,” Kopp said.
Christina Watts, branch manager at the Whitmire War Memorial Library, said they had a huge turnout of at least 500 to 1,000 people.
These visitors to Newberry came from other states and other countries. Kopp said the furthest they received was from Japan.
“My dad caught me at one point during Monday’s activities, and said ‘You know when you are in an international airport and can stand in a corner and hear five different languages? I can do that in Downtown Newberry right now,’” she said.
Whitmire visitors signed a guest book and not only did they have individuals from other states, but also Moscow and Mexico.
“We talked to them and they were all very nice and very patient and helped keep an eye on things,” Watts said.
Mayor Billy Hollingsworth said this was an amazing experience for Whitmire, mentioning that he noticed tags from Germany, New York and Virginia and that they received a lot of positive comments about the town.
Newberry Mayor Foster Senn heard from multiple visitors that they enjoyed Newberry, and he has heard about visitors from all over the country.
“I bet we had a representative from just about every state in our country here in Newberry yesterday,” he said. “I think our reputation is growing. I have to compliment city staff, Opera House staff and our volunteers. People in the region and beyond the state, know if you are going to come to Newberry, we are going to put on a good festival. A lot of visitors noted how safe they felt. We like to think we put on a festival where they can feel safe and comfortable.”
Marquerite Palmer said her Art Center volunteers did an amazing job. All of the activity stations during the four day festival were non-stop with activity. At the Art Center, Palmer said Bridget Carey and Debie Burton worked on the clay discs for the moon spinners, making 315 before the festival.
Well, on Saturday they ran out, and that afternoon Carey, Burton and Sharon Graham made 300 more for the Sunday and Monday activities.
Kopp said she made a supply run Saturday afternoon for The Opera House, and that another supply run was made Sunday morning for The Opera House and The Ritz. She also noted that all volunteers did an amazing job this weekend.
“It was wonderful to see so many kids excited about science and creativity in that way,” she said.
Palmer also took note of how the selfie boards brought people together. She said she heard people talking about where they were from and why they came to Newberry.
“Megan Achelpohl and Katie Walters made those. We had no idea how popular those were going to be. They worked really hard the week before, Public Works made those and put them together, and Megan and Katie painted them. They were amazing, on Monday a line was instantly formed,” she said.
The special Boy Scout and Girl Scout badge event also drew a crowd. Newberry EclipseFest had a unique badge that Scouts could earn during the four-day weekend. The badges were given out in the hundreds and troops from Delaware, Florida and Virginia came to Newberry to get that badge.
Something that added to the Newberry County visitors were the storms in Charleston. Kopp said they had tour buses diverted from Charleston to Newberry. They called The Opera House on Monday and said they were on the way.
“Staff members at the Opera House that typically work with tour buses worked really quickly to get the buses unloaded, and they had the buses drive to Tractor Supply and Walmart, where we had our shuttle system running,” she said. “I do not know what the final count of tour buses was, there were five or seven that came unexpectedly.”
The Newberry EclipseFest may have an impact on all future Newberry festivals. Kopp said city staff did a good job of telling people to come back for Oktoberfest.
“People asked how they can keep in touch. We gave people our website for the Art Center, Opera House, The City, told them where they can find out about city events and other things going on,” she said.
Palmer added that a Florida couple originally from Australia came to Newberry for the Eclipse and they said that being here made them realize how much they love a small town, and are thinking of relocating to Newberry.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-768-3122 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.