Weekly Columns

An exciting event in the sky is poised to make waves on the ground in Arkansas in just a few short days.

You may have already heard about the upcoming total solar eclipse that will cross North America on April 8. What you may not be following as closely is the economic and cultural effects this phenomenon is expected to generate for our state, and the preparation underway to maximize its impact.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and earth, completely blocking the face of the sun and causing the sky to darken as if at dawn or dusk. If the weather cooperates, the so-called path of totality set to blanket communities located in the center of the moon’s shadow will create a memorable spectacle that leaves little daylight visible for several minutes in the early afternoon.

Given that our state’s former nickname was “The Land of Opportunity,” it should be no surprise we are viewing this moment through a bigger lens.

This impending uncommon celestial experience has kickstarted a host of efforts to once again seize opportunity. Communities and leaders across the public and private sectors are preparing to host visitors to Arkansas eager to witness this natural sensation.

The excitement and enthusiasm are hard to escape. Even in the nation’s capital, I’ve had many conversations about the eclipse and the work underway to help ensure Arkansas is ready and able to handle the potential influx and any ramifications. The proactive approach being taken to make it as enjoyable, safe and beneficial as possible is something we can all take pride and assurance in.

With nearly two-thirds of Arkansas expected to be in the path of totality, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has mobilized state agencies and officials to plan for the opportunities and complications ahead. The state Department of Transportation, Division of Emergency Management, tourism, education, health care and law enforcement organizations have all made preparations to account for potential disruptions or emergencies and execute best practices for an event such as this.

To be sure, there will be a variety of formats for Arkansans and our captive audience to choose from to behold the eclipse and the fanfare surrounding it.

Almost all of the Buffalo National River is inside the path of totality, and Hot Springs National Park is one of only two national parks located within this zone while several of our state parks are situated in areas with total or partial visibility. There will also be events in urban areas for onlookers to gather together and take in the scene. Newfound guests and residents alike will have their choice of how to enjoy not only the few minutes of mid-day darkness, but many other outstanding amenities, attractions and experiences available in Arkansas all year.

Our real goal in promoting and celebrating the total solar eclipse is actually for The Natural State to shine through as a premiere destination for all sorts of indoor and outdoor fun.

Like many Arkansans, I’m anxious to be on the ground in a community along the path of totality and soak up this rare, awe-filled moment. I’m equally excited for the all the hard work by countless individuals helping showcase our state to pay dividends on the big day and for months and years to come.

So, have your special glasses handy and make your plan to get the most out of The Great American Eclipse that, for a few minutes, will give any Arkansas sunrise or sunset a run for its money.