Area 51, the infamously mysterious military installation in the Nevada desert, has fascinated people for decades. This week, that fascination may come to a head as thousands of people are expected to descend upon the site to take part in a viral event called “Storm Area 51.” KUNR’s News Director Michelle Billman sat down with Senior Reporter Paul Boger to breakdown the event and what it could mean for rural Nevada.
Paul, before we discuss the events happening down South later this week, let’s back up and discuss how we started talking about a possible civilian raid on Area 51.
Right, so earlier this summer, a young man named Matty Roberts, a college student from Bakersfield, California, created a Facebook event called “Storm Area 51: They Can’t Stop All of Us.”
Essentially, Roberts suggested that if a bunch of people meet up in rural Nevada on September 20th, and coordinate their parties, they could then Naruto run past the guards to -- quote -- see them aliens.
I should point out that this was meant to be a joke. First off, a Naruto run is a reference to a popular anime, in which a person runs very fast with their torso forward, and arms back. Also, in interviews, Roberts has admitted to creating the event out of boredom for laughs.
But, for some reason, the event resonated with people, and joking or not, storming Area 51 got well over two million RSVPs. That’s the point when this thing hit critical mass, and even the US Air Force issued a comment expressing concern and warning people that they need to stay away from the installation and that the military would take steps to protect its assets.
Now this raid has morphed into a few different events, right? Tell us about those.
Right, so seeing an opportunity to capitalize on this sudden mass interest in the site, some of the small towns near Area 51 began trying to create alien-themed festivals meant to attract some of the people looking to come to this remote part of the Mojave Desert.
There are a couple of events that have sprung up. One has been billed as the Area 51 Basecamp, in Hiko, about 30 miles east of Rachel. Others tried to create an event in the Amargosa Valley of Nye County, but county leaders there put the kibosh on that.
Most prominent, though, was an event that was dubbed Alienstock in Rachel. It was the brainchild of Roberts, the young man who started the Facebook post, and Connie West, the owner of the Little A’Le’Inn.
But there’s a lot of confusion surrounding that particular event...
That’s putting it mildly.
Just about a week ago, the actual Alienstock event (that brainchild of Matty Roberts and Connie West) was canceled.
Roberts, citing concerns over the logistics associated with trying to conjure up a festival out of thin air, took to social media to warn people against visiting Rachel. Instead, Roberts has announced a one-night-only Area 51-theme party in Vegas on Sept. 19th.
The town’s own website is even warning people not to come, telling people that there is no food, shelter or internet. They even go as far as to say there may be riots when people show up expecting a music festival, but they end up getting nothing.
It sounds like this could go badly, similarly to what happened a few years ago with the Fyre Festival, a supposed luxury music festival in the Bahamas where a bunch of people showed up, and it turned into a humanitarian crisis...
You know, that’s what a lot of people are already comparing this to, mainly because this is a really rural area. Much like Burning Man, these events are taking place in a very rural part of the state. Rachel, for instance, has a population of about 54, as of the last census. Lincoln County, itself, only has 5,300 people, so these aren’t the major metropolitan areas of the state with the infrastructure meant to support large crowds.
Also, it’s not like there’s a grocery store or gas station, let alone a hospital, anywhere near the site, so if people head out there, in many ways they’re going to be on their own, and if they’re not prepared, this could end badly. Also, where are they going to stay? Where are people going to use the bathroom? Where will they get water?
There are also some pretty major security concerns. Lincoln County has declared an emergency to prepare for all this, but no one knows for sure how many people are actually going to show up to all of this. In an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal, Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee estimated there will be 350 or more first responders at the event with about 150 law enforcement officers, but if thousands of people show up, will that be enough? Who knows?
You know, Paul, one thing that I think has gotten lost in all of this is that this is all began with the premise of storming a highly classified military installation. While it may have started as a joke, what’s the likelihood that people actually try to raid Area 51?
That’s a fantastic question, because, again, we just don’t know. We’ve already seen one set of arrests. Just last week, a couple of Dutch YouTubers were caught trespassing on the outskirts of the facility. They’ve since been sentenced to one year in the Nye County Jail, with all but ten days suspended. They’re not going to be the only ones.
Vegas oddsmakers are actually making bets on how many people will get arrested, and there’s even a side bet in Vegas laying odds on whether President Trump will tweet about Area 51 this week.
Alright, we’ll have to leave it there.