The high strangeness of the high American desert will be on full display this weekend, as extraterrestrial-obsessed revelers make the trek to “Storm Area 51”.
The event itself was born from a comedic Facebook event page proposing that attendees all raid the base at the same time, purporting that “they can’t stop us all”.
Of course, they can stop us all, and the gathering that will take place over the next few days will be far more akin to an alien-themed Woodstock than a civilian-military incursion.
Some residents of Rachel, a remote desert town of 50 people a short distance from the military base, worried their community might be overwhelmed by unruly crowds turning out in response to a recent, viral social-media invitation to “storm” Area 51. The town, about 150 miles (240 km) north of Las Vegas, lacks a grocery store or even a gasoline station.
Dozens of visitors began arriving outside Rachel’s only business – an extraterrestrial-themed motel and restaurant called the Little A’Le’Inn – parking themselves in cars, tents and campers. A fire truck was stationed nearby.
Visitors certainly seemed to come in peace.
One couple, Nicholas Bohen and Cayla McVey, both sporting UFO tattoos, traveled to Rachel from the Los Angeles suburb of Fullerton with enough food to last for a week of car-camping.
“It’s evolved into a peaceful gathering, a sharing of life stories,” McVey told Reuters, sizing up the crowd. “I think you are going to get a group of people that are prepared, respectful and they know what they getting themselves into.”
There were serious concerns about the ability of these tiny rural communities to handle such an influx of guests, which has local authorities working overtime.
The influx of alien hunters prompted Lincoln County, which encompasses Rachel and Hiko, to draft an emergency declaration that could be invoked if needed to call in help from the state.
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office said visitors should expect “a large presence of law enforcement.” Authorities urged everyone to bring ample supplies of food, water and fuel.
The official website of the town of Rachel warned visitors that they would be encountering a “sad affair”, hoping in part to mitigate the influx of UFO watchers.