Roswell UFO Fest takes off

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ROSWELL N.M. — This weekend, visitors from New Mexico and beyond are converging on Roswell, for this weekend’s UFO festival.

The three-day-long event this year will mark 75 years since a UFO reportedly crashed near Roswell and put the city on the map.

On Friday, the streets were crowded with traffic, and the sidewalks, as well as the Chaves County Courthouse lawn, were teeming with tourists, merchants and other life forms.

For some like Lucino Vega, the festival is something they wait all year for.

“I came to visit my brother. Ended up staying here and I’ve been here a whole year, waiting for this day,” said Vega.

For others, the weekend is their first time in Roswell and is a chance to be a little off-beat.

“Everyone can be weird, everybody looks weird. It’s like a weirdo party, you know,” said Valdeena Wauken, who is from Arizona.

For three days, the small city in the desert, will see vendors, musical acts and other activities.

Roswell is also home to the International UFO Museum & Research Center. It is a magnet for alien enthusiasts, and things really pick up each year in the first weekend of July.

“This is our big hurrah. We love it,” said Beth Weigard, an employee at the museum.

She noted that one year during the festival they had more than 11,000 people stop in, and they come from all over the world.

“Our last festival, we got a whole bus load of people from South America. It was a tour. There was probably about 15 people,” Weigard said.

She added that in the last year or so, the government has shown a heightened interest in UFO sightings. Something that is reflected in the nearly 15 lecturers the museum has booked for the weekend.

“So we can offer you these researchers and others , that can perhaps answer some questions that have come to light in the last year and a half,” Weigard said.

And among the throngs, are the diehards who come just about every year, such as Frank Renda, from Texas, and Genie, his female droid that looks like R2-D2 from Star Wars. Renda said it took him three and a half years to build it.

He added the public often has a favorable reaction to it.

“I just enjoy driving my droid around and making people happy with it,” Renda said.

All of it is enough to make someone walking down the streets of Roswell feel like they are on another planet.