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

/ Kevin Mills Photo
BC NDP leader tours through downtown Mission

John Horgan talked to local business owners, accompanied by candidates Pam Alexis and Bob D’Eith

Signs at a new COVID-19 testing and collection centre at 14577 66th Ave. in Surrey. It was relocated from an urgent primary care centre near Surrey Memorial Hospital. This new centre allows for up to 800 tests per day, which is 550 more than the previous centre, according to Fraser Health. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
More than 200 new COVID-19 cases linked to Fraser Health region: Dr. Henry

Provincial health officer appeals to people to keep gatherings small

Currently, many bike enthusiasts use the Mission skate park, but council has now decided to create a pump track for the community. / File Photo
Mission council approves $300,000 for recreational biking pump track

Bike skills park at Mission Leisure Centre to be considered in 2021 budget

The Rapid Rectangular Flashing Beacon installed on Stave Lake Street and Best Avenue, which will be operational in the next several weeks. District of Mission photo.
New type of pedestrian-crossing light coming to Mission

Rapid Rectangular Flashing Beacon installed on Stave Lake Street and Best Avenue

Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
MISSING: Mission RCMP request assistance in search for Joseph Pierce

Pierce last seen in Abbotsford on Oct. 6, may be headed to Alberta

Actor Ryan Reynolds surprised a Shuswap family with a special birthday message to their son who was worried he’d be alone on his 9th birthday on Nov. 24. (Tiffanie Trudell/Facebook)
Ryan Reynolds text almost gives away Shuswap boy’s birthday surprise

Deadpool actor helps remind eight-year-old Canoe resident he’s not alone

Vancouver police reactivated the search for Jordan Naterer Thursday Oct. 22. Photo courtesy of VPD.
Mom of missing Manning Park hiker believes her son is waiting to come home

‘He’s going to come out of a helicopter and say ‘what took you so long?”

Environment Minister George Heyman, Premier John Horgan and Energy Minister Michelle Mungall announce that B.C. Hydro is proceeding with construction of the Site C dam, Dec. 11, 2017. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
Site C actions, costs won’t be known until after B.C. election, Horgan says

Peace River diverted for construction of reinforced dam base

One of the squirrels who ended up having their tails amputated after getting them stuck together with tree sap. (Facebook/Wild ARC)
Squirrels recovering from tail amputation after sap situation near Victoria

BC SPCA Wild ARC says squirrels will be released back into wild, fifth sibling was euthanized

More and more electric cars are on the road, but one Chevy Bolt owner was shocked to see how much his BC Hydro bill skyrocketed once he started charging the vehicle. (Black Press file photo)
Lower Mainland man sees significant spike in BC Hydro bill after buying electrical vehicle

An increase should be expected, but Brian Chwiendacz experienced a 200-plus per cent hike

The Anonymous YVR is an Instagram page that reviews restaurants and other establishments around B.C. based on how well they adhere to COVID-19 rules. (Instagram)
Anonymous Instagram page reviews COVID-19 safety measures at B.C. businesses

There are a number of public health orders various types of establishments must follow to slow virus’s spread

Most Read