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What happens near Area 51 stays near Area 51.
Hundreds of revelers are expected to descend on a pair of tiny, dusty desert towns outside Las Vegas this weekend to take in some music and maybe — just maybe — catch a glimpse of a top-secret extraterrestrial life form.
The dueling festivals are inspired by “Storm Area 51,” a viral Facebook hoax since disowned by its creator that invited UFO buffs and other conspiracy-minded Americans to crash the military installation in southern Nevada to “see them aliens.”
In the popular and paranormal imagination, the highly classified U.S. Air Force test facility was the location of clandestine studies of space aliens and spacecrafts.
The weekend events — “Storm Area 51 Basecamp” in Hiko (pop. 119, as of the 2010 census) and “Alienstock” in Rachel, a tight-knit community of roughly 70 people — reportedly have some locals worried about overcrowding and potential safety issues, especially if true believers try to storm the base after all.
At least two people were detained by local sheriff’s deputies at a gate to Area 51 early Friday, according to The Associated Press.
Matty Roberts, the college student behind the original Facebook event (“Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us”), pulled out of the Alienstock event earlier this month, citing fears of a “humanitarian disaster” and a retread of Fyre Fest, the disastrous non-event that left scammed ticket holders stranded in the Bahamas.
Daniel Martinez, a collectible cards dealer whom the AP found dancing at a makeshift festival grounds in Rachel late Thursday, said he knew the original Facebook event was a gag.
But that did not stop him from driving more than six hours from Pomona, California, to join the interstellar fun, now apparently spearheaded by Connie West, owner of the Little A’Le’Inn Motel. The event, he said, was “a contagion, but in a good way — with positivity.”
Grammy-nominated electronica DJ Paul Oakenfold, who usually sets up his turntables in thumping nightclubs, is slated to headline the Hiko event Friday night, according to the official lineup. The festivities are expected to go down at the Alien Research Center, a gift shop, and include food and drink.
Storm Area 51 Basecamp will also feature two screenings of “Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers,” a 2018 documentary about a self-described engineer who claimed to a Las Vegas television station that he worked on extraterrestrial aircraft that were stored at Area 51.
The screenings bring things full-circle: Roberts has said he came up with the idea for the hoax Facebook page over the summer after podcast host Joe Rogan interviewed Lazar and the documentary’s director, Jeremy Corbell.