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Sept. 19, 2019, 11:35 p.m. EDT

Ready or not, they’re coming to Area 51. (Earthlings, that is)

Crowds coming to desert for hoax-turned-festival worry locals, and the Air Force

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By Associated Press


Associated Press
People walk near the Little A'Le'Inn during an event inspired by the "Storm Area 51" internet hoax, Thursday in Rachel, Nev.

HIKO, Nev. — The stage was set Thursday for music and other space-themed entertainment as Earthlings descended on the Nevada desert for events inspired by an internet hoax known as “Storm Area 51.”

“It started as a joke, but it’s not a joke for us,” Alon Burton, guitarist and member of the group Wily Savage, said as he and several other men wrestled a tarp over a makeshift stage near the Little A’Le’Inn motel and cafe in Rachel.

Gusts of wind billowed the white canopy like a sailboat spinnaker as they tied it down.

“We know people will come out. We just don’t know how many,” he said.

By early afternoon, several hundred people had made their way to the site where secrecy surrounding Area 51 has long fueled speculation that it’s where the government studies space aliens.

As they arrived for the weekend events, campers in trucks and trailers staked out space on federal land across a highway.

Anticipating a big crowd, a beer company had produced alien-themed cans, and a brothel in offered discounts to “E.T. enthusiasts.”

Events were planned in Rachel and Hiko, a 45-minute drive away, the two towns closest to Area 51.

The festivities sparked by the internet joke inviting people to “see them aliens” could become a cultural marker, monumental dud or something in between.

“This phenomenon is really a perfect blend of interest in aliens and the supernatural, government conspiracies, and the desire to know what we don’t know,” said Michael Ian Borer, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, sociologist who researches pop culture and paranormal activity.

The result, Borer said, was “hope and fear” for events that include the “Area 51 Basecamp,” featuring music, speakers and movies in Hiko and festivals in Rachel and Las Vegas competing for the name “Alienstock.”

“People desire to be part of something, to be ahead of the curve,” Borer said. “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.”

Eric Holt, the Lincoln County emergency manager overseeing preparations, said he believed authorities could handle 30,000 visitors at the events in Rachel and Hiko.

Still, neighbors braced for trouble after millions of people responded to the “Storm Area 51” Facebook post weeks ago.

Joerg Arnu, a Rachel resident who can see the festival grounds from his home, said he installed outdoor floodlights, fencing and “No Trespassing” signs on his 30-acre property.

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