ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC-TV) — Deb Ross sees it already: buses of people rolling into Rochester days before the moon completely blocks the sun in 2024.
She’s leading a task force designed to pitch our area as a destination for the total solar eclipse, which only happens within a thin path that stretches across the country.
Ross is working in tandem with the Rochester Museum and Science Center, on whose board she sits, but is also using the know-how she’s picked up building her business, Kids Out and About, which creates calendars that track kids activities.
She talks with Adam about this new effort. (They chatted in the Strasenburgh Planetarium, which is currently part of RMSC’s large Apollo 11 celebration.)
Adam: Before we talk about the eclipse, let’s talk about your business. How did you get into kids activities like you have?
Ross: I started Kids Out and About in 2001, 18 years ago, because there was no such thing as a web calendar then and I had a toddler and one on the way. And there was so much happening here for families in Rochester and even then I said, “Oh, somebody needs to put this all in one place,” because I was finding out about stuff by watching Channel 8 after the fact. Not to say I invented the web calendar, but I invented a web calendar that would work for us here so that everybody could put their events on the calendar and we’d be able to promote it to parents and it just grew. We ran it here in Rochester from 2001 to 2009 and then at that point the technology had caught up with my vision and we started expanding outside the Rochester area. At this point we have 45 regional sites all over North America and other cities, we get to celebrate them as well, but of course Rochester is near and dear and special to my heart because I plan to live here for the next 50 years.
Adam: One of the big efforts that you’re taking on right now has to do with the solar eclipse. How did that happen?
Ross: Partly it’s my mission to celebrate Rochester and Mother Nature is kind of handing us an unprecedented gift in 2024. That came about because in 2012, my daughter, Ella, took a class right here in the planetarium. She came home and said, “Mom, on August 21st of 2017, we are going to drive to St. Louis.” I said, “We are?” And she said, “Yeah, because we are going to be in the path of the totality for the solar eclipse, which is stretching from Oregon down to South Carolina and we’re going to St. Louis.”
Adam: What do the preparations look like right now?
Ross: Part of the issue is traffic management. We are the city with the major science center in the path closest to Boston, New York, and D.C., none which themselves is going to be in the path so folks are coming here and they’re coming from the east, the southeast and south, they could go to Buffalo, they could go to Cleveland, but they’re going to come here, but not only are we going to be prepared with the transportation community, our cultural community is already completely on board, so institutions like the RPO, they’re already preparing for what they’ll be offering both to folks here, but also to all the out-of-town visitors.
Adam: What do you think the possible impact of this could be on the region?
Ross: It’s going to be a huge economic for one thing. Now, the eclipse is on April 8, which is a Monday and it’s a perfect day because it’s 8 days after Easter, which means that spring break is in the intervening week and that means that folks from all over are going to start arriving here on Tuesday of the previous week because it’s going to be so hard to get a hotel room and we know this so we’re already preparing for what they’re going to see Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, they are going to play with light in Rochester so we’re going to give them all kinds of ways that they can play with light at all of our different institutions and recreations centers all over our area.
Adam: What are you going to do if there’s cloud cover on April 8, 2024?
Ross: On that day in Rochester the chance of sun is 51%. San Antonio has a 56% chance of sun and Dallas has a 61% chance of sun, that’s not that different from 51. … But we do have plans if there is cloud cover. We’re going to play with light and over the next few years, we’re going to develop different ways in which we will be playing with light during totality.