In a horse-training field, in Orin, WY, a family of women prepared for five months to welcome 440 guests. Drivers turned right at the Orin State Park and Rest Area, and entered the property where the Hegglund Sisters welcomed campers with broad smiles and rosy cheeks. The sisters come from a long line of women in hospitality in Douglas, WY and know how to make people feel at home.
Daviette, Tiffani, Amy, and Nikky started working on the Eclipse project in March, when their father, Charlie Heggelund, gathered them and said, “I want to be remembered me as an honest man. Hotel rooms are going off the roof. God blessed us with the land. Let’s open our house and give everybody a chance to watch the eclipse.” By “our house” he meant a forty-acre piece of land along the interstate, right next to the Orin State Park and Rest Area, which they use for horse training.
Charlie inherited from his remarkable mother, Wanda, a beautiful woman who adorned her hair with bright flowers. Wanda was born in the Birthing Center in 1932. When her mother died, she inherited the 13-cabin motel called Plains Motel & Trading Post. The Trading Post had been in operation since after the Great Depression and needed some work.
By the time Wanda Heggelund became a business owner, she was already a divorced woman. Although Wanda later fell in love with Neil Goodrich, she never married again. Neil helped Wanda build the expansion to the motel and the 24/7 Restaurant next to it. She mixed cement, laid brick and ordered supplies, everything except hammer a nail.
Wanda fell in love with restoration and repurposing. The birthing center later became a retirement home, until finally the family bought it in 1970. They moved it to their grounds near the Plains Motel & Trading Post and turned the Birthing Center into the Old Fashion Ice Cream Parlor in Douglas, WY today. The artifacts found in that building have been restored and now decorate both the restaurant and the Ice Cream Parlor. Wanda’s labor of love turned into a tradition of female hospitality, of lost and found, and of hope that the family carries on.
The new generation of Hegglands keeps the business booming. The restaurant has closed only twice since then, once for Neil’s funeral, the second time when somebody tried to take advantage of Wanda when she was old and feeble. The entire family went to court and won. And there is no slowing down. The eclipse proved that they know how to turn opportunities into business ideas.
The evening before the eclipse, the Heggland Sisters skillfully managed the event. Daviatte took care of reservations and registrations from a wide table in front of an RV at the entrance of the campgrounds. Amy sold souvenirs and setting up the welcoming part of the camp. Tiffani was in the bar, and Vicky, who lives on the land with her husband Richard, was the social butterfly making sure the eclipse-seeking campers felt welcome and comfortable.
By seven p.m the night before the eclipse, the Heggland sisters, their husbands and children, the employees from their several business, and even some friends, all helped to serve dinner to the 440 guests and the 1080 more that had joined without a previous reservation. They were prepared to welcome photographers and eclipse enthusiasts from all over the USA and the world. As the line in front of the impromptu restaurant grew to fill the plates with meat, salad, and beans, as we lined up for a cold beer, the night buzzed with the anticipation of the extraordinary.
The next day, the hard work of the four sisters and their families paid of. Around two thousand people were on their property watching the eclipse. They served breakfast and saw their guests to their campsites to watch the sky.
At 10 am. The show started with the moon entering the sun on the upper right side. We all watched how it slowly positioned itself in front of the sun. By 11:20 the temperature dropped, and a strange shadow seemed to follow everything. The shadow was so sharp that people could see their hair’s strands clearly. The dogs barked and the birds headed to their spot in the trees. At noon, the spectacle had reached its peak. A total solar eclipse marveled the attendants in ways they will never see again in their lifetime. The dark silhouette of the moon juxtaposed against a white ring of light, the sun. People took their glasses off while shrieks of joy inundated the space. Night suddenly fell and for the next two and a half minutes, everybody was so happy to witness the miracles nature offered. When the last rays became diamond beads, and dark glasses reappeared on faces of those reluctant to accept that the magic show was over.
The Heggland sisters said good-bye to the campers with smiles on their faces. Daviette, Nicky, Amy, and Tiffani paid tribute to Wanda by honoring her legacy of hospitality management. The campers will remember their names every time they reminiscence on the magic of the totality we witnessed in Orin, Wyoming on August 21, 2017.