Tuesday, June 12, 2007

UFO Tourism and the Roswell 60th Anniversary UFO Festival (I'm Not Going)

After a lot of deliberation this weekend, I decided I couldn't attend the big UFO festival in Roswell this year (July 5 - 8). I'd really like to go, but for financial and other reasons, it just doesn't seem like a good idea. Well, this weekend I nearly convinced myself otherwise, and looked into the feasability of going, and it looks like Roswell is pretty booked up (apparently, I'm not the only one who couldn't find a room). I attended in 2002 when the fest was substantially smaller (I use some pictures from that year's fest on my crashed saucer site), and from what I can tell the town is really doing things up this year. So much so, the cost of the festival appears to be double the initial amount budgeted by the city. If you take a look at the main festival website, there is a list of the speakers and entertainment that will be on deck. I'd like to hear and meet a number of the speakers that will be there, but this summer is just probably not the time.

As for the entertainment, it is a festival. The carnival aspect of Roswell is distasteful to some ufologists, but as an anthropologist I of course am interested. I've mentioned briefly before, Roswell isn't the only town with UFO Days. August 24 and 25 this year, Fyffe, Alabama will have their third annual UFO Days to celebrate sightings from 1989 (more on the festival in this report on the 2006 UFO Days), though the ties to the original case are not entirely clear. At least it has UFO in the title, instead of the UFO booth at Hattiesburg, Mississippi's May Fest, which revealed the secrets of "Area 41."

R. Lee at The Orange Orb blogged from the 8th Annual UFO Festival in McMinnville, Oregon (official website). For those not familiar with the case, it produced, in 1950, some of the most famous UFO photos. The University of Colorado study (aka the Condon Report) analyzed these photos, and that analysis and discussion of the case can be read on the nifty website of the Sign Historical Group (named after the first US military study of flying saucers, Project Sign, and dedicated to preserving and investigating early UFO history). Like Roswell, but unlike Fyffe, the McMinnville festival has ufologists give presentations in addition to costume contests, dealer's rooms, and alien parades. In this sense, they are reminiscent of fandom conventions, which are places to hear at least somewhat famous speakers, network with others in the community, see old friends, go have fun on the town, and spend money in the book room. Come to think of it, that's a fairly apt description of the professional archaeology and anthropology conferences I go to, except without the stressful job interviews.

Roswell, the go-to place for UFO tourists, has got bigger plans on the horizon. In the last couple of weeks, plans have been made public for a UFO theme park around Roswell. For their sakes, I hope it does better than Erich von Daniken's UFO and Ancient Astronaut-themed Mystery Park, which opened in Switzerland in 2003, and closed last year.

UPDATE: Shag Harbor in Canada now has a UFO Museum to go with their crash story. I'm actually reading up on Shag Harbor this summer so I can put it in the article I'm working on.

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