Just what landed on the desert floor outside of Roswell on a July night almost 70 years ago to many people still remains a thing of mystery and wonder.
The “Roswell Incident” also has sparked discussion, television specials, movies and scrutiny.
And it’s also given birth to the UFO Festival (ufofestivalroswell.com), a citywide celebration two decades in the making that runs from Thursday, July 2, through Sunday, July 5.
Alien parades and costume contests for pets and their owners and little green men on the run are all a part of the festivities, said Peggy Seckey, co-chairwoman of the festival.
“We try to give them so much to do that they can’t do it all,” she said.
For the duration of the festival, Main Street is shut down and lined with vendors selling out-of-this-world items.
Entry to the festival and many of the various accompanying features is free, Seckey said.
Even the Roswell Museum & Art Center gets into the spirit of the festival, sponsoring the Alien Costume Contest and Alien Pet Costume Contest that will be held Saturday, July 4.
The museum also is running an exhibit that ties in with the festival, celebrating the convergence of art and technology, said Sara Woodbury, curator of collections and exhibitions.
“Currents” is the celebration of the medium combining any or all of the films, interactive installations, sound, animation and ideas, she said.
A replica of the workshop includes much of the equipment the ground-breaking rocketry scientist used to create his work, including thrust chambers and rocket parts, Woodbury said.
Still the weekend is geared toward fun and entertainment, Seckey said, and not many sporting events can match the Alien Chase – the Roswell Runner’s Club’s 5- and 10-kilometer race.
“We have serious runners and not-so-serious runners,” Seckey said. “The not-so-serious will come out in every kind of garb there is. They’ll be green from head to toe. It is a sight to behold. And the serious runners, some of them even come out in costume. But it is a competition so it’s pretty good.”
The Friday, July 3, night lights up with a float parade that can best be described as otherworldly, she said. And short science-fiction films are shown and judged throughout the weekend in the Roswell Film Fest.
The festival also is an opportunity for renowned UFO-ologists to gather and discuss with the public not only the Roswell Incident, but the many other unexplained incidents that occur across the globe.
Finally, no trip to Roswell would be complete without dropping into the International UFO Museum & Research Center, which will be in all its glory throughout the festival.
There are exhibits covering the famed incident in the summer of 1947, movie sets from documentaries that discussed issues and a research area for UFO enthusiasts.
The museum at 114 N. Main St. also has lectures and events throughout the year. For more information, call 575-625-9495 or go to roswellufomuseum.com.
For those who get a bit burned out by space invaders, Roswell offers a number of other attractions.
The nearby Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 4065 Bitter Lakes Road, is a mixture of grasslands and marsh, said Steve Alvarez, a public use specialist for the refuge.
“It’s like an oasis in the middle of nowhere,” he said.
The area is known for its many species of birds and dragon flies, Alvarez said.
For more information, call 575-622-6755 or visit friendsofbitterlake.com.
The refuge is surrounded by the 9,000-acre Salt Creek Wilderness Area for hikers and horseback riders.
The Robert H. Goddard Planetarium will have free shows throughout the weekend.
Roswell’s Spring River Park & Zoo, 1306 E. College Blvd. (575-624-6760), is one of the country’s few free zoos, said director Elaine Mayfield.
It’s home to about 200 animals representing 62 species housed in naturalistic enclosures. It’s open seven days a week, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. in the summer.
It features mainly native species. But one of the highlights are the non-native lemurs, because of the Madagascar movies, Mayfield said.
The surrounding park is a child’s favorite with a miniature train and an antique carousel, each of which cost 25 cents to ride.