Mainstay Suites in Casper sold out of rooms for eclipse weekend about a year ago. But the hotel is still receiving calls each day asking about availability.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing,” said general manager LeAnn Miller. “We get really busy during the high school tournaments, but nothing quite like this.”

Mainstay’s experience is not unique. Hotels across Casper have been sold out well ahead of the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, which is expected to attract 35,000 visitors. And it’s not just hotels that are already full.

Brad Williams, the manager of Hertz Car Rental at the Casper/Natrona County International Airport, said the agency’s fleet is booked that weekend.

“We’ve been sold out for three months,” he added.

Despite the demand, there are still options for people looking to book a last-minute trip to see the eclipse in Casper, which is directly in the path of totality.

About 100 to 150 hotel rooms are available in Casper, according to Anna Wilcox, the executive director of the Wyoming Eclipse Festival.

A handful of those rooms are at the Sterling Hotel, which started accepting reservations only a few weeks ago, said the hotel’s manager Jason Laird. The establishment was shut down shortly after it was struck by lightning on June 13, 2016, and was not expected to reopen.

“My family was pretty devastated,” he recalled, adding that they struggled to pay their bills and had to go to the food bank for Christmas dinner.

Although the building’s owner decided to sell the facility, Laird said he and his wife noticed it was still “sitting empty” this June, and approached the owner about reopening the hotel for the week of the eclipse.

The owner agreed, but Laird said he was worried there might not be any people left who needed reservations.

“I didn’t know if we had missed the boat or not,” he said.

Laird quickly received his answer.

As of Friday, 8 of the hotel’s 67 rooms were still available, and they’re selling for $900 to $1300 a night, he said.

The hotel’s former rates were $65 to $195, he recalled.

Laird credits the eclipse for helping his family get back on their feet.

“I tell my wife every day I’m happier than I’ve been in a year,” he said, adding that the facility might remain open permanently as an apartment complex.

Laird added that he has guests coming from all over the world.

“A lady called me today from France, and she’s bringing a group of six people,” he said. “It’s kind of exciting.”

Tarandeep Kaur, the owner of 1st Interstate Motel, said she’s also expecting international guests, some from as far as Australia and Japan. The motel has a few rooms left, and they’re selling for $1,500 a night, she said.

“This year [business] was pretty slow, so this is a big help to the community and the businesses,” she said.

Although Wilcox said most visitors will be coming to Casper by car, the airport is also expecting a surge.

Glenn Januska, the director of Casper/Natrona County International Airport, said that some commercial airlines have added a few extra flights to Casper for the eclipse. She also confirmed that 157 private airplanes — half of which are jets — are scheduled to fly into the airport on the morning of Aug. 21.

The airport, which started holding eclipse preparation meetings in 2014, is ready for the crowds, said Januska.

The director said that the airport’s procedures and security policies will not significantly change during the eclipse but will simply be done on a larger scale.

Although not everyone is enthused about the influx of visitors, Wilcox said she thinks the eclipse will be an amazing experience.

“I am feeling very excited,” she said. “I know a number of people who say ‘oh, you must be ready for all this to be over,’ and it’s the exact opposite.”

Katie King covers the city of Casper


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