Gallatin city leaders are asking residents to be patient and prepared as potentially hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the world begin arriving this week ahead of Monday's total solar eclipse.
Local officials estimate between 60,000 and 260,000 people from 39 states and 17 foreign countries will come to Gallatin to watch the moon slowly block out the sun on Aug. 21.
"It's going to be a burden for the people who live here, but it's also a great opportunity to showcase our city, put our best foot forward and show our personality," Mayor Paige Brown said. "We just have to be in the best position to take the best advantage of it that we possibly can.
"It's a very interesting experience to prepare for something that you'll never have to prepare for again. We have one shot to do the best we can."
Nationwide, more than 300 million people could potentially directly view the total solar eclipse when it crosses 14 states from Oregon to South Carolina on Aug. 21, according to NASA. In Gallatin, the phenomenon will not occur again until 2566.
Police: Traffic, cell phone service could be 'problematic'
To mark the event, more than a dozen entertainment and eclipse-related events are planned from Thursday until Monday.
As a result, residents should expect travel delays as well as increased wait times at local restaurants, according to city and local law enforcement officials. Shoppers may also want to get groceries and take care of any last minute errands sooner rather than later.
"It's important to realize... that traffic flow is going to be problematic if that many people show up," Lt. Chris Shockley with the Gallatin Police Department said. "Expect delays. Your city as you know it is going to change with that number of people."
Cell phone service in the area could also be affected.
Organizers anticipate the largest eclipse viewing event in Sumner County will take place at Triple Creek Park in Gallatin on Aug. 21. Park gates will open at 7 a.m. with the free event kicking off at 9 a.m. with an outdoor yoga class. Several live musical performances are planned throughout the day including American Idol and Gallatin High School alumni Kimberly Locke who will take the stage at 11 a.m. Food trucks, vendors and other activities will also be available.
Police plan to close the entrance to the park at 11 a.m. However, free parking will also be available at the nearby Civic Center, Municipal Park, Sumner County Health Department, Shafer Middle and Benny Bills Elementary schools. There will also be designated free lots along Hartsville Pike, which will offer shuttle bus transportation to a section of Town Creek Greenway that is near Triple Creek Park.
"We do have extra staff coming in to increase patrols in those heavily populated areas," Lt. Ricky Troup with the Gallatin Police Department said. "Vehicles will be parked and things like that to keep extra eyes on property.
"If we start seeing traffic pattern problems and things like that then we'll also have extra hands available to help out with that."
Police encourage residents and visitors to make sure they lock their vehicles and place any valuables in the trunk and out of view. Anyone who notices suspicious activity should notify authorities.
Additional safety measures planned
In order to help ease traffic congestion related to the eclipse, the Tennessee Department of Transportation will be halting lane closures beginning Friday at noon through noon Tuesday, Aug. 22 in order to provide maximum roadway capacity, according to spokeswoman Kathryn Schulte.
"During the eclipse, it is imperative that drivers not stop on the interstate, even on the shoulder," she added. "We need to keep the shoulders clear for emergency vehicles. We also remind folks not to look directly at the eclipse without proper eye-wear."
In Gallatin, the partial eclipse will begin at 11:59 a.m. and will last almost 90 minutes before the total solar eclipse occurs at 1:27 p.m. Following 2 minutes and 40 seconds of totality, where the sun is completely blocked by the moon, a second partial eclipse will take place.
Police say they plan to have personnel stationed throughout the city, so that in the event of an emergency officers will not have far to travel. While response times should not take longer than normal, residents should still prepare like they could be.
"We're looking forward to (the eclipse) and we're hoping that everything runs as smoothly as we're praying for," Troup said. "We want everybody to enjoy themselves and have a good time."