Chamber planning total eclipse events

Maybe it is a little early to be discussing the total solar eclipse that will pass through Portland on Aug. 21.

But given the planning that has been going on for some time now, it is definitely time to ready for the event.

After all, there has not been a total solar eclipse in this part of the country in many years, making Aug. 21, a once-in-a lifetime viewing for many people in this area.

But it is not just for the locals here, and the Portland Chamber of Commerce is keenly aware of the happenings and that the northern area of Middle Tennessee is a prime viewing area for the eclipse.

The time of darkness from the eclipse in Portland is projected to be 2 minutes, 36 seconds, surpassed only in this area by Gallatin, White House and Cross Plains, which are in the area expected to be dark for about four seconds longer than Portland.

The eclipse is visible across portions of the United States, as it stretches from Oregon to South Carolina, with Sumner County falling directly into its path.

In Portland, there will be viewing areas at Meadowbrook Park, Richland Park, Days Gone By and Sumner Crest Winery. The Chamber will also have some glasses on hand that are needed to see the eclipse. No one should view the eclipse without proper eyewear, because the eclipse can cause severe damage if viewed by the naked eye.

Sumner and Robertson County schools have closed that day, which falls on a Monday, making for a three-day weekend to enjoy the festivities surrounding the historic occasion.

"Our big events are the weekend before. On the Monday of the eclipse, we will provide locations for people to be able to view the eclipse," said Kristen Daughtry of the Portland

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Chamber of Commerce.

Daughtry said the weekend will kick off with a vendor event on Saturday, Aug. 19. The time and location have yet to be determined, but vendors with original art, antiques, jewelry and home d├ęcor items are scheduled to be on hand that day. The event is free.

From 2 p.m.-5 p.m. on Aug. 19, a classic car cruise-in, sponsored by Raise the Praise and Days Gone By. The car show will be held in the parking lot of First Baptist Church on Broadway.

Following that, the final Music on Main summer event will take place with the classic cover band Four on the Floor playing under the lights on Main Street.

"We're excited to have them," Daughtry said. "They play music from the '50s to the '80s, and everything in between. They are a really good band."

On Sunday, caterer Carolyn Berry will be preparing foods and meats from local farmers in a Farm to Table Dinner that will be served under the lights on Main Street.

Cost of the dinner is $75, and the event begins at 7:30 p.m. that night. To find out more information or to purchase tickets, go to the Portland Chamber's website at www.portlandcofc.com.

According to local science and space expert Lonnie Putenbaugh, who is scheduled to speak to the Portland Chamber of Commerce in July, he told the chamber that the eclipse could bring in hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area. Part of the out-of-town appeal is because of the close proximity of Portland to Interstate 65, combined with the eclipse lasting so long in Portland and surrounding communities.

One couple from Washington, D.C. has already bought tickets to the Farm to Table dinner. Another person from Virginia has had a room booked in the area for the historic event for five years now.

"I think you're going to have a little bit of both - locals and visitors," Daughtry said. "There are people who are traveling a great distance to make a weekend of it. That's why we wanted to have events here on Saturday and Sunday to let them see a little bit of what Portland is about and to see some of our hospitality, so that they will want to come and visit again."

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