Stage set in Nevada as Earthlings arrive for Area 51 events

Hundreds descend on Nevada desert for music and space-themed entertainment

(John Locher/AP)

The stage was set Thursday for music and other space-themed entertainment as Earthlings descended on the Nevada desert for events inspired by an internet hoax known as “Storm Area 51.”

“It started as a joke, but it’s not a joke for us,” Alon Burton, guitarist and member of the group Wily Savage, said as he and several other men wrestled a tarp over a makeshift stage near the Little A’Le’Inn motel and cafe in Rachel.

Gusts of wind billowed the white canopy like a sailboat spinnaker as they tied it down.

“We know people will come out. We just don’t know how many,” Burton said.

By early afternoon, several hundred people had made their way to the site where secrecy surrounding Area 51 has long fueled speculation that it’s where the government studies space aliens.

As they arrived for the weekend events, campers in trucks and trailers staked out space on federal land across a highway.

Anticipating a big crowd, a beer company had produced alien-themed cans, and a brothel in offered discounts to “E.T. enthusiasts.”

Events were planned in Rachel and Hiko, a 45-minute drive away, the two towns closest to Area 51.

The festivities sparked by the internet joke inviting people to “see them aliens” could become a cultural marker, monumental dud or something in between.

READ MORE: Sicamous site of attempt to contact aliens

“This phenomenon is really a perfect blend of interest in aliens and the supernatural, government conspiracies, and the desire to know what we don’t know,” said Michael Ian Borer, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, sociologist who researches pop culture and paranormal activity.

The result, Borer said, was “hope and fear” for events that include the “Area 51 Basecamp,” featuring music, speakers and movies in Hiko and festivals in Rachel and Las Vegas competing for the name “Alienstock.”

“People desire to be part of something, to be ahead of the curve,” Borer said. “Area 51 is a place where normal, ordinary citizens can’t go. When you tell people they can’t do something, they just want to do it more.”

Eric Holt, the Lincoln County emergency manager overseeing preparations, said he believed authorities could handle 30,000 visitors at the events in Rachel and Hiko.

Still, neighbours braced for trouble after millions of people responded to the “Storm Area 51” Facebook post weeks ago.

Joerg Arnu, a Rachel resident who can see the festival grounds from his home, said he installed outdoor floodlights, fencing and “No Trespassing” signs on his 30-acre property.

He also organized a radio-equipped night watch of neighbours who fear there won’t be enough water, food, trash bins or toilets for visitors.

“Those that know what to expect camping in the desert are going to have a good time,” Arnu said.

However, others won’t if they show up in shorts and flip-flops, he said.

“That doesn’t protect you against critters, snakes and scorpions,” Arnu said. “It will get cold at night. They’re not going to find what they’re looking for, and they are going to get angry.”

Some cellphones didn’t work Thursday in Rachel, and officials expect what service there was to eventually be overwhelmed.

The Federal Aviation Administration closed nearby air space, although Air Force jets could be heard in the sun-drenched skies, along with an occasional sonic boom.

George Harris, owner of the Alien Research Center souvenir store in Hiko, said the “Area 51 Basecamp” Friday and Saturday will focus on music, movies and talks about extraterrestrial lore.

Electronic dance music DJ and recording artist Paul Oakenfold is Friday’s headliner in Hiko.

The event also promises up to 60 food trucks and vendors, trash and electric service, and a robust security and medical staff.

READ MORE: Storm the Ogopogo? Okanagan residents called upon to find elusive monster

Harris said he was prepared for as many as 15,000 people and expected they would appreciate taking selfies with a replica of the Area 51 back gate without having to travel several miles to the real thing.

“We just want people to be safe,” Harris said. “As long as they don’t go on the desert floor and destroy the ecosystem, everyone will have a good time.”

Burton said he had promises from almost 50 performers to appear at the Rachel site, off a state road dubbed Extraterrestrial Highway.

The U.S. Air Force has issued stern warnings for people not to approach the gates of the Nevada Test and Training Range, where Area 51 is located.

Authorities in Nye County, home to a conspicuously green establishment called the Area 51 Alien Center, are discouraging Earthlings from trying to find extraterrestrials.

“We’re taking precautions and checking the back roads,” Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said.

Her deputies last week arrested two Dutch tourists attracted by “Storm Area 51.” The men pleaded guilty to trespassing at a secure U.S. site nowhere near Area 51 and promised to pay thousands in fines.

Arnu said the military added razor wire to barbed cattle fencing on the Area 51 boundary near his home, installed more cameras and battery-powered lighting, and erected an imposing spike barrier just inside a gate. He noted a new sign telling trespassers they’ll be arrested and fined $1,000.

Ken Ritter, The Associated Press

READ MORE: Writer of young science fiction books with dragons coming to 100 Mile House

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pitt Meadows ball hockey goalie gets call up to Team Canada

Matteo Petrelli will mind net for U20 team at world championships in Switzerland this summer

Maple Ridge’s Brandon Yip to play in KHL all star game in Moscow Sunday morning

Yip currently captains the Kunlun Red Stars who are based in Beijing

The value of a prison education

Kevin Heinze teaches continuing education at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre in Maple Ridge.

Along the Fraser: RIP Parker (1991-2019)

The Canadian Liver Foundation raises funds by recycling or scrapping old vehicles.

Letter: Allen Way rail crossing proposed in 1980

Pitt Meadows mayor at time wanted it at north Bonson.

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

VIDEO: Highway 1 left looking like winter war zone with dozens of stranded vehicles

Tow-truck driver says 30 vehicles still dot snowy landscape, including one rolled-over dairy truck

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

Canada Post driver in hospital after ice smashes windshield at Massey Tunnel

Incident happened on Richmond side of the Massey Tunnel

Most Read