The organisers of one alien-themed party went their separate ways last week, leading to accusations of secrecy and poor planning.
A wildly popular Facebook joke about "storming" Area 51 inspired plans for an enormous alien-themed party in the Nevada desert. Now there are three events in the works, including one in Las Vegas sponsored by Bud Light.
The aliens, if they're watching, probably have some questions for humanity. You might, too, so here's a closer look at what's happening.
There's not much to it: In late June, Matty Roberts, a college student, created an event on Facebook called "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us."
The event, scheduled for September 20, was meant as a joke about making a run on the mysterious and well-protected military test site in southern Nevada, fabled to be dedicated to the research of real, honest-to-goodness alien spacecraft.
The joke caught fire.
Within three weeks, more than 1 million people marked themselves down as planning to attend. (By mid-September, the number had reached 2.1 million.) Even the Air Force noticed and, in July, a spokeswoman told The New York Times that "any attempt to illegally access military installations or military training areas is dangerous."
Concerned that some might take the call to action seriously and be arrested or hurt, Roberts decided to plan a sizable "Alienstock" music festival nearby as an alternative, according to reports, teaming up with Brock Daily, a co-host of the Facebook event, and Connie West, of the Little A'Le'Inn in rural Rachel, Nevada, which is home to fewer than 100 residents.
Roberts and Daily parted ways this week with West, according to Frank DiMaggio, an event planner who is now working with the two men. West has said that the party in Rachel is still on, according to The Las Vegas Review-Journal. But according to a statement, the three men say that it's poised to be "FYREFEST 2.0," a rerun of a famously hyped party in 2017 that failed spectacularly.
Instead, they are directing their followers on Facebook and elsewhere to an event on Sept. 19, hosted by the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center and sponsored by Bud Light, which will sell limited-edition alien-themed beer at the event as well as elsewhere in Nevada, Arizona and California. About 8,000 people are expected to attend, according to a spokeswoman for the center, which can hold up to 12,000.
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It was a relatively easy move for Roberts and Daily because the Las Vegas event was already in the works as a sort of pregame to the bigger desert party, according to DiMaggio.
"It was exactly what they wanted to happen out in the desert, but all the infrastructure's there," he said.
According to DiMaggio, the Rachel event had been plagued by a lack of infrastructure, poor planning and secrecy, which had led to concerns among Roberts and Daily.
"We are not interested in, nor will we tolerate any involvement in a FYREFEST 2.0," the three said of the festival in Rachel in a statement on the website for the Las Vegas event. "We foresee a possible humanitarian disaster in the works, and we can't participate in any capacity at this point."
In a letter on Thursday, reviewed by The Times, a lawyer representing Roberts and Daily asked West to stop promoting the "Alienstock" event that had been planned in Rachel.
Some of those living in the area were glad to hear that the two men were directing visitors elsewhere, according to Joerg Arnu, one of the fewer than 100 Rachel residents. "We are very, very relieved," he said.
Arnu accused West of keeping residents in the dark about the event, while DiMaggio said she did the same to her fellow organisers.
West did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Thursday and Friday by email and left with the staff at the inn.
In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Cody Theising, manager at the Little A'Le'Inn, disputed the concerns raised by Roberts, Daily and DiMaggio, noting that permits were approved, parking and camping sites were being sold, and musical acts and ambulance services had been lined up. The commissioners of Lincoln County also voted to declare a state of emergency if things in Rachel got out of hand, according to the news organization.
A party of the third kind
While the Rachel event was in the works, another group of organisers was planning a gathering for September 20 and 21 in nearby Hiko, home to the Alien Research Center, a gift shop.
While that event, the Storm Area 51 Basecamp, will feature food, drink and music, it also includes a lineup of speakers intended to appeal to those interested in aliens and the secretive military base.
"We're focusing on the true believers, we're not looking for a rave in the desert," said Keith Wright, managing partner of Production Specialists of Las Vegas, an events company, and one of the organisers of the Basecamp event.
The speakers include Jeremy Corbell, the director of a movie on Netflix about Bob Lazar, who says he reverse-engineered alien spaceships at Area 51 — both of whom reportedly served as inspiration for Roberts' Facebook post.
In an interview, DiMaggio gave his blessing to the Hiko event and said that Roberts was considering checking it out.
"They're cool people and they've got a killer event," he said.
Wright said he and the other organisers were spending about US$200,000 ($313,000) of their own money and planned to bring myriad amenities into the desert, including about 80 portable bathrooms, generators, food trucks, security and emergency services, and a semi truck filled with bottled water.
Wright said that he hoped to host no more than 5,000 people at the event in Hiko, which he also said was on the way to both Rachel and Area 51.
"From everything that we're being told, the people are coming," he said. "All we have to do is capture them."
Written by: Niraj Chokshi
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