Tag: Connie West

A Year Later, ‘Storm Area 51’ Still Affects Nevada Town

Article by Christopher Lawrence                                   September 18, 2020                                    (reviewjournal.com)

• September 20th marked the first anniversary of the ‘Storm Area 51’ Facebook event when over two million people responded to a college student’s ‘late-night goof’, and pledged to storm Area 51 to “see them aliens.” Leading up to the event, the world was obsessed with how many people would descend on a tiny town called Rachel, Nevada – 50 miles from anywhere – and what they’d do when they got there.

• The event was thrown into disarray just days before when the young man who coined the phrase “Storm Area 51” severed ties with it. Plans to “storm” the nearby gate at the secretive military facility morphed into a music and arts festival dubbed ‘Alienstock’ for the 2000 or so people who were curious enough to show up.

• As the proprietor of the only business in Rachel, Connie West and her Little A’Le’Inn restaurant and hotel were thrust into the international spotlight. “I’m still not unwound from it,” West says of that wild summer that found media from around the world wandering into her small cafe, “because I have to deal with the aftermath of it every day.” “In this last year (with COVID), we’ve been hit so hard, we’re barely treading water.”

• As a result of this random Facebook meme, Lincoln County, Nevada is out $200,000; two small-business owners lost a combined $250,000; litigation involving the meme’s creator is pending; and Rachel has become divided, with many of its residents no longer speaking to one another. “I’ve known these people for a long, long time,” said West. “Alienstock made me see some ugly in people that I never thought were that deep and ugly, right here in my community.” West estimates the event cost her $200,000, and that tab keeps climbing because of the legal bills. She’s due in court again in late February.

• None of that deterred West from attempting to host another festival in 2020, which was canceled due to the pandemic. “I put a hell of a lot of work into it,” said West. “I had some awesome sponsors.” Those sponsors seem willing to work with her again when it is deemed safe, in 2021 or 2022. “All year, people have reached out to me,” West says. “They want this to happen again.”

• Rachel resident Joerg Arnu says that “The event… deeply divided our town into two camps.” One group backs West and her plans. Arnu leads the other group who wishes that West would just throw in the towel. “There’s a lot of animosity all of a sudden,” says Arnu. “Rachel was a very friendly town, where everybody knew everybody, everybody greeted everybody, waved at everybody. Now it’s come down to the exact opposite. Nobody even wants to talk to anyone anymore.”

• Since the Alienstock festival, Arnu says he’s been harassed, had strangers trespass on his property and has been photographed inside his home via long lenses. He complains of tourists driving through the residential areas of Rachel, and he has reinstalled the security lighting he bought last summer. “Our town that was a very peaceful and quiet place, and friendly place, has changed. I don’t know if it will ever mend, if it will ever go back to how it was,” says Arnu. “I will fight another Alienstock with everything I have.”

• Aside from the town of Rachel, the ‘Area 51 Basecamp’ at the Alien Research Center in Hiko, Nevada also had grand ambitions. British DJ Paul Oakenfold was so excited about the event that he flew from England on his private jet to perform for free on opening night at the center. But so few festival-goers showed up, plans were scrapped and tickets were refunded.

• “I don’t think we have anything to be embarrassed about,” says George Harris, the owner of the Alien Research Center. “And, by the way, I lost a lot of money, because I really thought there was going to be about 25,000 or 30,000 people, so we prepared for a lot.” Instead, 8,500 people stopped by over the course of a couple of days. That discrepancy cost him $42,000, and Harris says it will take him four or five years to pay off the bank loan. But the Alien Research Center was busier than normal for the next several weeks, and Harris says visitors still can’t get enough of his “I Stormed Area 51” merchandise. Like West, he plans to do it again.

• Eric Holt had been Lincoln County’s emergency manager for 18 months when calls started pouring in about ‘Storm Area 51’. A predicted number of 100,000 people coming to Lincoln County was a logistical nightmare in a rugged environment with almost no infrastructure. “We spent a month and a half straight just dedicating all of our resources to planning efforts for this,” Holt recalls. Even the 6,000 people who showed up for the event was “still kind of unheard of for up here” where there are only about fifty permanent residents. Holt says the county’s final costs for that weekend topped $200,000, and that was only because several other agencies offered their services at no charge. “[I]t would have been over $1 million easy.” Holt says that, between the event and the pandemic, it could take years for the full economic impact to be felt. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak has indicated that help from Carson City isn’t likely.

• The idea to storm Area 51 at 3 a.m. Sept. 20 was born out of late-night boredom as the 20 year old college student Matty Roberts played World of Warcraft while scrolling through Facebook and watching self-proclaimed Area 51 whistleblower Bob Lazar on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Then he watched as the Facebook challenge went viral all over the world. “I was just like, ‘Oh man, the FBI’s going to show up.’ And they did. And I’m pretty sure I’m still on a watchlist.”

• Now, a year later Roberts lives in Bakersfield, California working in a vape shop, waiting for his ‘in person’ college classes to resume, and hoping one day to become an electrician. “It almost feels kind of like a wild fever dream in a way,’ says Roberts. “But I lived that. And that’s kind of bonkers to me. That’s a story not a whole lot of people can tell. I kind of wanna write a book.”

• After he pulled out of the Rachel event, Roberts ended up hosting a party September 19th at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, which served as a launch for Bud Light’s limited-edition Area 51-themed beer. Similar parties were planned in Vegas for this summer, including escape rooms and obstacle courses, and a tour of the East Coast. But COVID-19 stopped all of it in its tracks. “I’ve had quite a few people that kind of mentioned that they thought I made millions from this thing,” says Roberts. But in reality, he only sold a few t-shirts.

• Roberts’ legal rights to the term ‘Alienstock’ are part of the legal dispute with Connie West. But would he do the whole thing again some day? “Absolutely. I mean, if we can, I would love to,” Roberts says. “I think whenever it is, and if it is safe to gather again, I’d really like to kind of just keep pursuing the dream.”

 

                        Joerg Arnu

It seems closer to a generation ago than 12 measly months.

Long before the 2020-ness of life began pulverizing us on a daily basis — back when the biggest thing many of us were concerned about was whether we’d ever get our hands on one of those Popeyes chicken sandwiches — the world was obsessed with how many people would descend on a tiny blip on the Nevada map, 50 miles from anywhere, called Rachel and what they might do when they got there.

Sunday marks the first anniversary of the day on which more than 2 million Facebook users, responding to a college student’s late-night goof, had pledged to storm Area 51 to “see them aliens.”

           George Harris

As a result of that random joke, Lincoln County is out $200,000, two small-business owners lost a combined

                      Connie West

$250,000, litigation is pending and Rachel has become divided, with many of its residents — all of whom could safely gather without violating the state’s 50-person coronavirus guidelines — no longer speaking to one another.

‘I’m still not unwound’

“In this last year, we’ve been hit so hard, we’re barely treading water,” Connie West says.

As the proprietor of the only business in Rachel, the nearest thing

                      Matty Roberts

resembling a town to Area 51, she and her Little A’Le’Inn were thrust into the international spotlight in July 2019 as that Facebook prank went viral.

Plans to breach the nearby gate of the secretive military facility morphed into an ambitious music and

                          Eric Holt

arts festival dubbed Alienstock. The event was thrown into disarray days before, on Sept. 9, when the man who coined the phrase “Storm Area 51” severed ties with it. The resulting four-day festival, put together at the last minute, offered the couple of thousand people curious enough to attend more of a DIY vibe.

“I’m still not unwound from it,” West says of that wild summer that found media from around the world wandering into her small cafe, “because I have to deal with the aftermath of it every day.”

That aftermath includes a lawsuit and countersuit involving the meme’s creator and his team, as well as the wrath of some members of her once-close-knit group of neighbors who remain angry with the way things played out.

“I’ve known these people for a long, long time. … Alienstock made me see some ugly in people that I never thought were that deep and ugly, right here in my community.”

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Alienstock Festival Returns to Rachel in September

 

Article by Mick Akers                             February 17, 2020                              (reviewjournal.com)

• Last year, college student Matty Roberts created a Facebook meme to “storm the gate” of the secretive Air Force base known as Area 51 to “see them aliens.” The Alien Research Center in Hiko, Nevada and the ‘Little A’Le’Inn’ restaurant and hotel in Rachel, Nevada served as base camps for the 3,000 festivalgoers who actually attended what became “Alienstock”, a high-spirited festival of space alien enthusiasts featuring various musical acts, food vendors and activities.

• Lincoln County law enforcement anticipated a crowd of up to 30,000 people last year, and requested emergency funds to handle the expected crowds. As it turned out, the festival went off without a major incident. On the appointed day, September 20th, around 100 people showed up at the back gate of Area 51, chanted, and had fun with the law enforcement officials. A total of six arrests were made at the two Area 51 gates over the four-day event – five for trespassing and one for indecent exposure after a Canadian man urinated on the gate.

• Little A’Le’Inn owner Connie West was so pleased with the outcome of last year’s festival, she remarked that she would like to hold another Alienstock event in 2020. On the Little A’Le’Inn website, West has announced the dates for this year’s Alienstock – September 10-12.

• Citing safety and infrastructure concerns, the meme’s creator, Roberts, pulled out of the event last year. Roberts went on to host an alien-themed party in downtown Las Vegas. Roberts and his group, Hidden Sound LLC, are now in a legal battle with the Little A’Le’Inn owner, Connie West, for the rights to the ‘Alienstock’ name. The case is pending in the District Court.

• This year, Lincoln County commissioners have pre-signed a declaration of emergency for around $200,000 from the state of Nevada to help cover the costs of overseeing the alien-themed festival. But Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak says he doesn’t know why the state would have to bail the county when it approved the events. Still, Lincoln County commissioners have agreed to hear Connie West’s proposal for another Alienstock festival in a future commissioners meeting.

• Lincoln County emergency manager Eric Holt said that “Permits last year were approved in an effort to give order to the chaos and assist in the planning of such an unknown event.” But this year, some commissioners “have voiced their concerns with it and have requested a resolution in non-support of an Area 51 event that would require any support or response on behalf of Lincoln County.”

• Holt says that Lincoln County is not looking to provide an annual response to this event, similar to what Clark County (ie: Las Vegas) does on New Year’s Eve. “[A]ny future events would have to be self-supporting with no burden placed on the county.”

 

            Matty Roberts

After attracting thousands of extraterrestrial fans from around the world to a rural Nevada desert town, Alienstock

                             Eric Holt

organizers are preparing for a second go round.

Owners of restaurant and motel the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel announced the dates for Alienstock 2020, listing the second annual festival will take place Sept. 10-12 on its website.

Last year’s event was created after a viral Facebook meme to storm the gate of the secretive Air Force base commonly known as Area 51 — long rumored to house extraterrestrial technology — to “see them aliens.” The Area 51 Basecamp event at the Alien Research Center in Hiko was also created in response to the attention the meme received.

The meme’s creator, college student Matty Roberts, initially signed on to be part of the Alienstock event, before pulling out, citing safety and infrastructure concerns. Roberts went on to host an alien-themed party in downtown Las Vegas.

Roberts and his group Hidden Sound LLC and Little A’Le’Inn owner Connie West are now in a legal battle for the

         Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak
                       Connie West

Alienstock name.

Their case is slated to be heard in a bench trial in District Court beginning next February, according to court records.

On the final day of Alienstock 2019, West mentioned her desire to hold the event again and said she already had someone book a room at the Little A’Le’Inn for the event.

 

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Area 51 Festival Wraps Up in Nevada; Earthlings Head Home

Article by Associated Press                   September 22, 2019                    (latimes.com)

• Although more than 2 million Facebook users clicked their interest, and local officials anticipated a crowd of at least 30,000, only about 3,000 people made the trip to the small desert city Rachel, Nevada to “Storm Area 51”. Authorities said no more than 1,000 people visited Area 51 gates near Rachel on Thursday and Friday. No one was arrested there.

• Visitors hailed from France, Russia, Germany, Peru, Sweden, Australia and many U.S. states. A few hundred more camped and attended one night of an abbreviated music festival about 40 miles away in Hiko, Nevada. “It seems like a lot of good people chilling and having a good time,” observed Dave Wells, a 56-year-old stonemason from Cincinnati wearing a Day-Glo green festival T-shirt and taking in the scene Saturday in Rachel.

• Connie West, proprietor of the Little A’Le’Inn at the epicenter of the Alienstock event, said “[W]e found peace and friendship” as campers packed up to leave and volunteers began cleaning up. West wants to do it again next year. “As well as it turned out? Why the heck not?” she said. At a festival clinic in Rachel, one man was treated for dehydration, and one woman was treated for a drug-related issue.

• The “Area 51 Basecamp” at the Alien Research Center souvenir shop in Hiko, didn’t fare as well. Organizers pulled the plug Saturday on a second concert after drawing only about 500 ticket-buyers for a Friday show. Preparations had been made for up to 5,000.

• Sheriff Kerry Lee said he watched about 20 people feign a rush before dawn Saturday toward a base gate outside Rachel, before stopping short. In Lincoln County, six people were arrested for misdemeanors, mostly trespassing beneath the floodlights and cameras of two military base gates and the watchful eyes of sheriff’s deputies.

• Officials had feared unruly crowds would overwhelm water, electricity, food, fuel, internet and telephone service in a county with just 5,200 people covering an area the size of Massachusetts. “I’m going to call it a success from our end. It’s because we got out in front of it,” said Varlin Higbee, a Lincoln County commissioner who signed an emergency declaration to allocate $250,000 in emergency funds. Higbee said they might sue to recoup costs.

• Matty Roberts, a 20-year-old from Bakersfield, Calif., made the Facebook post to Storm Area 51 as a hoax, then promoted it, then broke away from the event just weeks before. Roberts hosted a Thursday evening event at an outdoor venue in downtown Las Vegas, also using the “Alienstock” name. He said he wants to trademark the name and take it on tour to reach people who couldn’t travel to Nevada. “That’s pretty much the plan for me,” Roberts said. “It’s been a ton of fun.”

 

HIKO, Nev. — The festivals are over and Earthlings from around the globe headed home Sunday after a weekend camping and partying in the dusty Nevada desert and trekking to remote gates of Area 51, a formerly top-secret U.S. military base long the focus of UFO and space alien lore.

They left in peace, officials and the host of a free “Alienstock” festival said Sunday.

Visitors hailed from France, Russia, Germany, Peru, Sweden, Australia and many U.S. states — many toting cameras — in answer to an internet post in June suggesting that if enough people rushed a military base to “see them aliens” at 3 a.m. Sept. 20, authorities couldn’t stop everyone.

More than 2 million Facebook users clicked their interest, but in the end only a few thousand made the trip to the tiny Nevada desert city of Rachel, population about 50, more than two hours north of Las Vegas by car.

Campers and festival-goers in Rachel peaked at about 3,000 on Friday, said Eric Holt, the Lincoln County official who headed planning for a feared influx of at least 30,000.

A few hundred more camped and attended one night of an abbreviated festival about 40 miles away in Hiko, population 120.

“It seems like a lot of good people chilling and having a good time,” observed Dave Wells, a 56-year-old stonemason and festivals-seeker from Cincinnati wearing a Day-Glo green festival T-shirt and taking in the scene Saturday in Rachel.

Did anyone find actual extraterrestrials or UFOs? (As if anyone could really tell among the masked and costumed beings posing for photos and cavorting in the desert.)

“We didn’t,” said Little A’Le’Inn owner-turned-“Alienstock” festival host Connie West, proprietor of the 10-room motel and cafe that became the center of the extraterrestrial-seeking universe.

“But we found peace. And friendship,” she said Sunday as campers packed up to leave and volunteers began cleaning up.

4:45 minute video of people interviewed at Storm Area 51 event (Fox News YouTube)


10:16 minute video of the Storm Area 51 event (‘Explore With Us’ YouTube)

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