This year marked the 65th anniversary of the mysterious object that crashed down just north of Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. It was the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) that released an initial statement claiming that they had recovered a “flying disk.” The following day, a second press release was issued which stated that the 509th Bomb Group had been mistaken, and the wreckage was actually that of a weather balloon.
Years later, believers and skeptics alike flock to Roswell for the annual UFO convention. The blend of attendees includes a wide range of individuals including scientists, doctors, engineers, and of course alien enthusiasts. There are two festivals that Roswell had to offer this year. One was put on by the city, and the other festival was hosted by the International UFO Museum. Between the two festivals, attendees had a number of events to indulge in, including a number of lectures from well-known UFO researchers and authors, vendor tables, and quirky events such as costume contests, a parade and an alien chase 5k and 10k.
Cameras in hand, Barry and Ann Lasky stood outside the museum waiting for the opening ceremonies to begin last Friday morning. The couple moved to Roswell a few years back after attending an earlier festival and falling in love with the city. They moved to Roswell from Los Angeles and began selling collectible memorabilia.
“My official reason for moving to Roswell is I wanted to be kidnapped and probed by aliens,” Lasky joked. “But the other reason is it’s too expensive to live in Los Angeles. We know people out here, and we’re into the science fiction. We sell comics, magazines, and collectibles, so this seemed like a good place to go. We’re having a lot of fun here.”
The Laskys weren’t the only ones having fun. Over 4,000 UFO enthusiasts moved through the International UFO Museum during the festival, and it also offered some of the most engaging events of the weekend according to Roswell resident Kelly Keith.
“The UFO museum and the people that are here are very sincere as to what they believe, and they’ve enlighten me,” said Keith, who was attending his first UFO festival in Roswell.
The speakers, which spoke at the International UFO Museum, included a number of well-known UFO investigators such as Stanton Friedman, Don Schmitt, Tom Carey, Dr. Kevin Randle, Robert Salas, Freddy Silva, Kathleen Marden, and Yvonne R. Smith just to name a few. These individuals are no strangers to the annual festival; some have been coming to speak at the event for well over a decade. Don Schmitt, co-author of “Witness to Roswell” and the upcoming “Beneath the Radar, the Real Area 51,” is one of them. He has been attending and speaking at the UFO museum’s festival since 1995 and investigating the Roswell incident itself for the past 23 years.
“I have made so many good friends over the years from just about every other walk of life,” says Schmitt of the festival. “But what always remains the most exciting is when a new witness connected to our research makes the effort to seek us out at the Roswell museum. They’re finally stepping forward to tell us first-hand about what happened back in 1947.”
These confessions along with death bed confessions are what the festival attendees have the most questions about at Schmitt’s lectures which he does with fellow investigator Tom Carey.
“People are interested in what the witnesses have waited a lifetime to finally admit and why would they possibly withhold information about something as silly as a weather balloon,” said Schmitt.
“Roswell has certainly become, in rather short order, the granddaddy of all such conventions attracting almost 10,000 people a year,” Schmitt also revealed. “Other such venues take place in Arizona, Oregon, and California and draw around a thousand attendees at best. Roswell can rightly take the title of the number one UFO festival in the world.”
Stanton T. Friedman, nuclear physicist and original civilian investigator of the Roswell incident, agrees.
“I don’t know of any other incidents with a full museum for visitors and a fine research library along direct access to investigators such as myself, Tom Carey, and Don Schmitt,” said Friedman who has attended nearly every annual Roswell UFO festival since 1997.
“It’s truly a cosmic Watergate. The government has given out four different explanations of what happened,” Friedman explained. “The sheer number of witnesses that have been found and spoken on the record is very impressive.”
The large amount of witness testimony not only made Don Schmitt and Tom Carey’s book “Witness To Roswell” the number one selling UFO book in 2007 and 2008 when it was first released, but it also helped to pique the interest of LSU student and UFO skeptic Jennifer Hager.
“As a UFO skeptic, a trip to Roswell was pretty exciting and informative for me,” said Hager. “Learning the facts surrounding the Roswell event as well as some other interesting cases about aliens and UFOs in general has me questioning the possibility of life on other planets.”
One of the speakers that intrigued Hager was Dr. Kevin Randle, a veteran and prominent ufologist. Dr. Randle was attending this year’s festival promoting his latest book “Reflections of a UFO Investigator.” He had attended the previous two years and then several of the festivals in the 90’s as well. When asked how the festival differed now in comparison to when he first attended, Dr. Randle said it was the programming that had changed the most.
“I think the programming is a lot more sophisticated now. There’s a lot more programming that deals with UFOs,” Dr. Randle revealed. “They’ve embraced other aspects of UFOs. I think that UFOs are a series of different subsets like UFO crashes, abductions, crop circles, and all of that. When they originally started they were just a research center covering UFOs and UFO crashes, but they’ve embraced a lot of the other subsets as well. They’ve brought in other speakers to cover a wide range of interests.”
Hypnotherapist/abduction researcher Yvonne Smith has attended the annual festival for the last 15 years, and when she looks back, the difference is the number of people attending the festival.
“The festivals now are smaller. I don’t think they’ll ever be as big as the 50th anniversary, unless we go to the 100th,” Smith stated. “I don’t think we could ever repeat such an event.”
The festivals may be smaller, but they still attract alien enthusiasts from all over. Attendees from the U.K., New Zealand, and Australia (just to name a few) made their way through the International UFO Museum last weekend, and all of them were asking the same question – what was it that happened in July of 1947? Was it a flying saucer or a weather balloon that crashed down that summer? One thing is for sure, there’s no better place to learn the history and debate what actually happened 65 years ago than in Roswell, New Mexico.