Tribal Government & News

Total eclipse of the Lodge: Grand Ronde prepares for totality in August

03.13.2017 Brent Merrill Events, Spirit Mountain Casino

This summer, when day turns to night around 10 a.m. Monday, Aug. 21, in Grand Ronde, employees at Spirit Mountain Casino plan to be ready to witness celestial history.

When the moon passes between the Earth and sun, a total solar eclipse will provide a momentary sliver of daytime darkness from one corner of the United States to another while guests at the Tribe’s casino will be treating themselves to an assortment of breakfast juices and pastries in the narrow path of totality.

“This is something that has been on our radar since right after I got here two years ago,” Spirit Mountain Casino Marketing Director Shawna Ridgebear said. “We are creating one big event around it – one big viewing party with separation for our VIPs.”

Ridgebear said casino staff will be serving a continental breakfast in a roped-off area designated for high rollers. Staff will be handing out viewing glasses to all guests throughout the casino.

“We are in such a great viewing area,” Ridgebear said. “We know we are going to have a lot of people so we definitely want to make sure our VIPs feel special and that they are taken care of and really enjoy it in the style that they are accustomed to. We want to make them feel valued as Spirit Mountain players.”

Ridgebear and Spirit Mountain Casino General Manager Stan Dillon said they are aware of Oregon hotels and resorts selling out their rooms well in advance of the solar eclipse and that Spirit Mountain Lodge is currently preparing packages around the eclipse for its guests.

Dillon said the lodge’s booking system is not set up to book rooms more than two months in advance.

“One thing about our system is you can’t go very far out because the system doesn’t allow you to,” Dillon said.

“We haven’t sold (rooms yet) because customarily we don’t sell that far out,” Ridgebear said. “We will be making fun packages with our rooms for people to be able to buy. We’re going to be giving those people who haven’t had a chance to book yet an opportunity to do that.”

Ridgebear said that although there will be a premium on Lodge rooms and that they will cost more than the normal rate, the idea of doubling rates like other area hotels is not part of the plan at Spirit Mountain.

“Just because of the price of demand Spirit Mountain has never engaged in any price-gouging,” Ridgebear said. “If we had high demand for rooms we might have an increase, but we would never hurt our image with price-gouging.”

A recent look at the Red Lion Hotel’s website in Salem listed current room prices between $108 and $135, but the hotel is sold out for the night of Sunday, Aug. 20. It’s the same situation for the Rodeway Inn and the Grand Hotel in Salem. Rooms at the Rodeway Inn are currently selling for as little as $60 a night, but the Inn is booked completely for Aug. 20. The Grand charges $159 to $189 for a room currently, but is also sold out for Aug. 20.

Western Oregon is expecting possibly hundreds of thousands of tourists and eclipse aficionados to be in the area and local campgrounds completely sold out within an hour of the reservation period being opened by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

State recreation managers are expecting heavy traffic in the Mary’s Peak and Mt. Hebo areas as people try to get the best viewing spots. People at the top of even a good-sized hill may see the moon’s shadow approaching along the ground at a speed of more than 1,150 mph.

Access to both of those areas will be managed by the state to ensure safe routes will be maintained and that sensitive areas will be protected.

Although total solar eclipses are not rare – one occurs somewhere on Earth every 18 months – the Aug. 21 event will be first one visible in the lower 48 states since February 1979. It will be the first total solar eclipse in 99 years to sweep from coast to coast.

Locally, Tribal Cultural Resources Department Manager David Harrelson said there is no lore he is aware of in Tribal history regarding eclipses and that there are no official Tribal cultural events currently being planned besides the annual Contest Powwow, which will be held the weekend before.

“I have no knowledge of our Tribal stories, beliefs or practices that would be relevant to a solar eclipse,” Harrelson said.