ALIEN fanatics descending in their thousands upon the harsh Nevada desert for Storm Area 51-related events could face disaster, warn nervous locals.
Joerg Arnu, a Rachel resident, said that UFO hunters showing up in the desert in shorts and flip-flops won’t be “protected against critters, snakes and scorpions”.
Thousands of people are expected to attend two weekend festivities: the Alienstock music festival in Rachel, and the “Storm Area 51 Basecamp” at a gift shop dubbed the Alien Research Center in Hiko.
The combined population of both tiny towns is less than 200.
Rachel and Hiko are closest to the US installation known as Area 51, which has been at the centre of a cancelled prank event to storm the military installation.
The towns are cashing in on the hype surrounding the now-notorious ‘raid’, and they’re not the only ones.
A beer company has produced alien-themed cans, and a Nevada brothel is offering discounts to “E.T. enthusiasts”.
Meanwhile, scores of UFO enthusiasts have also been converging on Nevada to get as close as possible to the heavily protected Area 51 site, which is long rumoured to house government secrets about alien life.
This is despite stern warnings from officials that they risk arrest.
“SEE THEM ALIENS”
Law enforcement officials beefed up security around the military base in response to a recent, viral social-media invitation to “storm” Area 51.
In June, California college student Matty Roberts posted a facetious Facebook invitation exhorting the public at large to run into Area 51 on foot to “see them aliens”.
When more than one million people expressed interest, the US Air Force warned curiosity seekers not to breach the gates at the military base, which it said is still used to test combat aircraft and train personnel.
Five sheriff’s patrol cars were posted on Thursday just outside the Area 51 gate to repel any wannabe invaders.
Meanwhile, the towns of Rachel and Hiko near the once-secret military research site are preparing for a huge influx of people over the next few days, including those disappointed at the cancellation of the prank raid.
On the back of the internet hoax to “see them aliens”, weekend events are expected to draw thousands of visitors to the two tiny desert towns.
15,000 EXPECTED IN HIKO
George Harris, owner of the Alien Research Center souvenir store in Hiko, said Friday and Saturday’s “Area 51 Basecamp” 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 food trucks and vendors, trash and electric service, and robust security and medical staff.
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.
Its Storm Area 51 Basecamp website invites visitors to “get abducted at your own risk”.
The two-day event in Hiko – population 119 according to the last Census in 2010 – at the centre on the Extraterrestrial Highway “will be basecamp for believers as prominent ufologists, expert speakers, musicians and artists gather to celebrate the ‘Storm’ Area 51 movement”, the website adds.
It says that people can hear from “expert ufologists and stargaze using state-of-the-art telescope technology”. There’s also alien-inspired merchandise and art installations.
Over in Rachel, visitors have set up an encampment outside the town’s only business – the extraterrestrial-themed Little A’Le’Inn motel and restaurant. Some tourists hung inflatable aliens from their campers ahead of the Alienstock music festival.
Situated about 150 miles (240km) north of Las Vegas, the remote hamlet of just 50 year-round residents lacks a grocery store or even a petrol station.
On its Facebook page, Little A’Le’Inn said: “Greeting Earthlings! It’s finally here and we’ve got some awesome stuff planned this weekend!
“Lots have already showed up but for those that haven’t, please travel safely and pack accordingly!”
The Alienstock parking website said that “although we are preparing and trying to gather as many resources as possible, Rachel is just a small town in the Nevada desert.
“We recommend bringing water, food and appropriate clothing.
“The weather should be nice during the day, but it can drop into the 40s at night.”
But Joerg Arnu, a Rachel resident, told reporters: “We are preparing for the worst.”
Arnu said he installed outdoor floodlights, fencing and “No Trespassing” signs on his 30-acre property.
He’s also organised a radio-equipped night watch of neighbours, fearing there won’t be enough water, food, trash bins or toilets for ill-equipped visitors.
Arnu added: “Those that know what to expect camping in the desert are going to have a good time, those who are looking for a big party are going to be disappointed.”
He fears that those failing to find full services and shops are “going to get angry”.
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Michael Borer, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, sociologist who researches pop culture and paranormal activity, said the festivities sparked by the internet joke were “a perfect blend of interest in aliens and the supernatural, government conspiracies, and the desire to know what we don’t know.
“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.”
Authorities reported no serious incidents related to the two festivals scheduled until Sunday in Rachel and Hiko, located about a 45-minute drive apart on a state road dubbed the Extraterrestrial Highway, and a two-hour drive from Las Vegas.