They’ve arrived: Humans that is. More than 3,000 people showed up for night two of the Alienstock Festival in Rachel, Nevada.
The thousands of curious Earthlings from around the globe traveled to the festivals in Rachel and Hiko, because they were drawn by an internet buzz and a social media craze sparked by a summertime Facebook post inviting people to “Storm Area 51.”
For hundreds of people who believe, it was Area 51 or bust. And bust it largely turned out to be.
Despite all the viral hype on Facebook, there was no storming of the highly secretive Area 51 facility on Friday. And all the supposed alien life forms that hundreds of thousands of people on social media vowed to free remained secret.
But wearing tinfoil hats, Naruto headbands, and alien antennas, people from across the US still found their people in the small, remote town of Rachel, Nevada.
The event was originally billed as "Storm Area 51," a Facebook joke that quickly attracted millions of followers. However, after warnings of little to no infrastructure, it was canceled, with the original organizers saying they feared a “possible humanitarian disaster” akin to the infamous Fyre Festival.
Still, diehards couldn't stay away, and on Friday, about a hundred of them approached the entry gates of the secretive military base and came face-to-face with armed military guards and officers ready to grab anyone who stepped even an inch into the property.
That's when nearly everyone decided they had gone far enough.
As of Friday afternoon, at least two people had been arrested since the first revelers started to arrive Thursday night, Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry D. Lee told The Washington Post. One person was arrested for public indecency after urinating on a gate, and another was booked after an alcohol-related arrest turned up an outstanding warrant. Lee said a few more people were taken into custody for trespassing and released, and one person was injured in a rollover accident.
Even though the tourists numbering in the thousands is a far cry from the more than 2 million who responded to the online event, Holt said just 10,000 tourists more than doubles the local population and pushes resources to the brink.
“If we get ten thousand people, it overwhelms our gas stations and grocery stores. The county of ten thousand square miles with a population of about 5,000,” Holt said.
The town of Rachel, for instance, has just 54 residents. The closest gas station is in Alamo, about 60 miles away. Holt worried about out-of-towners unfamiliar with the remoteness of the area.
Area 51 is the common name of a highly classified United States Air Force (USAF) facility located within the Nevada Test and Training Range. Officially, the facility is called Homey Airport (KXTA) or Groom Lake, named after the salt flat situated next to its airfield. Although details of the facility's operations are not publicly known, the USAF says it is an open training range, and it most likely supports the development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapons systems, based on historical evidence. The USAF acquired the site in 1955, primarily for flight testing the Lockheed U-2 aircraft.