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Festival organizers: Numbers up so far

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Kathy Lay, executive director of MainStreet Roswell, says she is optimistic that this year's participation in the UFO Festival will exceed last year's numbers. She is shown directing visitors while working in MainStreet's downtown information booth on Saturday afternoon. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

UFO Festival organizers speaking on Saturday described this year’s event as robust so far, with one day left to go, and predicted that attendance and participation will surpass that of previous years.

This is the 70th anniversary of the so-called Roswell Incident, the 1947 crash of a mysterious object in a ranch near Corona, considered by many worldwide to be a UFO phenomenon.
About 109 vendors have set up booths in downtown Main Street, according to MainStreet Roswell Executive Director Kathy Lay.
Lay said that vendors have come from many different states as well as from Mexico.
“We had a very diverse group,” she said. Downtown booths offered psychic readings, clothing and jewelry, souvenirs and arts and crafts, food, prayer opportunities, a glass of wine, kids’ games and tattoos, among other goods and services.
The festival kicked off on Thursday, but Lay said visitors and attendance began to pick up on Friday and Saturday. She said MainStreet, one of the chief organizers of the event, is hopeful that attendance and business will outpace last year, when it was estimated that as many as 20,000 people attended.
The number of visitors at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center, a chief venue for several festival-related events, also reported increased counts so far.
There were 702 recorded visitors to the center by Saturday evening, an increase of 46 percent compared to 2016 head counts at this point, said City of Roswell Public Affairs Director Juanita Jennings.
Jennings attributed larger numbers to better efforts at promoting the event as well as cooperation among festival organizers. Promotional efforts included foreign and U.S. media coverage both before and after the event.
Visitors to the International UFO Museum and Research Library, a focal point for UFO enthusiasts, has been tracked at 19 percent higher for the first two days of this year’s festival compared to the first two days of the 2016 event, said Director Jim Hill.
He added that those numbers do not include all the visitors the museum’s lecture series, which is occurring not only at the museum but at its North Library Room and at the Roswell Convention and Civic Center. (Two other lecture series are occurring as well, the Roswell Incident at the Sally Port Inn and the Modern Challenges to the Extraterrestrial Theory at the Roswell Mall.)
“It is going extremely well,” said Hill. “Visitor lines are wrapping around the building.”
The UFO Festival is one of the city’s largest visitor and tourist attractions each year. Last year, organizers estimated that direct spending by visitors and festival attendees totaled more than $1.5 million and that more than 2,200 lodging nights were booked.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.