July 4, 2001
Roswell Gears Up for 2001 UFO Festival
By Heather Clark
The Associated Press
In "2001: A Space Odyssey," an authoritarian computer named HAL hurtles actor Gary Lockwood into deep space. Lockwood lands this week in Roswell.
Lockwood is scheduled to appear at this southern New Mexican town's annual UFO Festival, which marks a purported crash of a UFO in 1947 known as the Roswell Incident.
Making the classic Stanley Kubrick film the theme of this year's event, organizers hope to capitalize on the year to attract from 5,000 to 15,000 people.
They also hope to broaden the festival by adding more down-to-earth activities, like a concert by a band called the Little Green Men, an Alien Parade, a costume contest and an Alien Chase run. Even a Miss UFO Festival beauty queen will make several appearances at the four-day festival that starts Thursday.
Cory Beck, publisher of the Roswell Daily Record, said "without a doubt" 2001 should provide a larger draw than in recent years.
"It's the whole UFO-space-science-fiction thing," he said. "2001 is such a milepost, first with Arthur C. Clarke's book and then the Kubrick movie. People kind of attach a lot of importance to it."
Residents are pulling out all the stops to attract visitors.
"The outsiders expect to see aliens everywhere," said Richard Hesse, 43, who owns one of four gift shops in downtown Roswell that specializes in alien paraphernalia from model spaceships to mousepads.
Hesse said business owners are decorating their storefronts with spaceships like the 11-foot metal flying saucer hovering over the Crashdown Diner and slender aliens with bulbous heads and opaque, black almond-shaped eyes.
For UFO believers, the festival has a trade show, several speakers who research aliens and government documents related to UFOs.
Despite their efforts, organizers don't think this festival will break the attendance record set in 1997 when 48,000 people descended on Roswell, more than doubling the town's population of about 45,000.
That year marked the 50th anniversary of the Roswell Incident when a rancher discovered unusual debris on his land.
After a quick inspection of the crash site, Air Force officials issued a press release claiming to have recovered material from a flying saucer, but retracted it almost immediately.
The Air Force has long contended the wreckage was a high-altitude balloon. Last year, an Air Force report said people may have mistaken parachute test-dummies for alien bodies.
The so-called government cover-up an essential ingredient in much UFO lore hasn't stopped believers and skeptics alike from visiting Roswell.
The town boasts a television series about alien teens, several books and an International UFO Museum and Research Center containing about 80,000 items and documents.
"We're kind of a mecca for UFO curiosity seekers," said Julie Shuster, a Roswell native who manages the 10-year-old museum.
The museum, which is decorated with a metal flying saucer that looks as if it's crashed into the corner of the building, celebrated its 1 millionth visitor on Friday and has attracted people from as far away as Japan and Australia, Shuster said.
Shuster, who has never seen a UFO, said she believes in extra terrestrials and wants to provide a place for everyone from serious researchers to the curious to learn about them.
"If you believe in UFOs, we're the place to go. If you don't believe, maybe we'll sway you one way or the other," she said. "And I always say, you don't have to believe in a six-foot mouse to enjoy Disney World."