If you’re looking for some out-of-this-world adventure this summer, Roswell is the place to go.
The southeastern New Mexico city will once again host its popular UFO Festival during the weekend leading up to Independence Day.
The fun kicks off with live entertainment on the afternoon of Thursday, June 30, and continues through Sunday, July 3. At least 10,000 people from around the globe are expected to turn out for the celebration.
“It’s big, it’s really big,” says Karen Jaramillo, interim executive director of the International UFO Museum & Research Center. “We sell out all the hotels. People stay in Carlsbad and Artesia.”
The festival isn’t hard to find with events scheduled at the museum, along Main Street – which cuts right through the center of the city and will be closed to vehicle traffic – and other locations around town.
“We do close the Main Street itself,” says Tom Blake, director of MainStreet Roswell. “It opens it up to have vendors on the street. These are vendors from all over the Southwest.”
Visitors will find people selling food, UFO memorabilia and more.
MainStreet Roswell is responsible for the entertainment and vendors – the fun side of the festival – while the museum handles the more serious side by booking guest speakers, Jaramillo says.
The fun this year will include a family and kids area with a water slide, water balloons and other activities. In addition, there will be a full lineup of music and other entertainment.
One early booking is the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, a Cambridge, Mass.-based jazz group that describes itself as “a costumed funk/street beat improvisational brass band performing a unique blend of original and traditional music.”
“That’s a very fun and entertaining jazz ensemble,” Blake says.
In addition, MainStreet Roswell will be bringing in a variety of regional acts, including fire shows and dance groups such as the Odd-Lab group out of El Paso which offers “all out pyromania” with “mesmerizing fire breathers, exotic stilt walkers, ambient entertainment, dazzling aerial acts, circus performers and fire cannons.”
On Saturday morning, runners and walkers will hit the streets for the 22nd annual Alien Chase 5K and 10K sponsored by the Roswell Runners Club. The event, in which entrants can run or walk, benefits the Roswell Humane Society.
The run is a competition but also a sight to behold because many of the entrants pound the pavement wearing everything from a little bit of green face paint to a full-out costume.
Also on Saturday are the ever-popular pet and human costume contests where people and their animals dress up in sometimes outrageous get-ups and ham it up for the judges and the crowd. Many of them stay in costume to join in the Saturday evening light parade with floats, more people in costume and, of course, lights.
The “serious” side of the festival this year will include a full line-up of speakers and authors, Jaramillo says.
Event favorite Stanton T. Friedman could be called the headliner. Friedman is a nuclear physicist who became interested in UFOs in 1958 and has lectured about them at hundreds of colleges and other locations across the U.S. and in more than a dozen other countries.
Other speakers will be Travis Walton sharing his account of being abducted by aliens from the mountains of northeastern Arizona in 1975 and alien abduction/ET contact scholar Kathleen Marden.
Also joining the speakers’ roster will be former U.S. Rep. Merrill Cook, R-Utah, who served as a panel member for a mock congressional hearing on UFO topics put on by the Paradigm Research Group in Washington, D.C., in 2013.
The festival gives UFO-ologists a place to gather and discuss the Roswell Incident and other unexplained incidents that occur across the globe.
The Roswell Incident is considered the best-known UFO incident in history. In early July 1947, a mysterious object crashed on a ranch 30 miles north of Roswell. The military initially issued a statement saying it had recovered a crashed “flying disk” but changed its statement the next day to say that the object was a weather balloon. Controversy over the incident has continued ever since.
To learn more about what happened that July almost 70 years ago, many visit the UFO Museum, which expects to welcome 2,000 people through its doors each day during the festival and features exhibits about the famed incident as well as documentary movie sets and a research area for UFO enthusiasts.
The Roswell Museum & Art Center, which is home to the Dr. Robert Hutchings Goddard Collection, also draws many visitors during the UFO Festival. Goddard was a pioneer in American rocketry and one of the first to experiment with liquid fuel propulsion. He conducted experiments in Roswell during the 1930s.
The festival so far is mostly a tourist event, but the planning committee is working to involve more locals, Jaramillo says.
Entry into the festival and the lectures is free.