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Organizers reflect on UFO Festival’s impact

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As the dust settles from the 23rd annual UFO Festival, organizers and city partners are reflecting on its impact over the weekend. Now that the festival is over, organizers will be reviewing various data and surveys to determine turnout for the festival.

City Director of Public Affairs Juanita Jennings said the festival was a phenomenal and well put-together event for all ages. With activities for children, adults, sci-fi fans, adventurists and more, Jennings said she felt the festival was welcoming and inviting for visitors.

Including other events — like the first annual Down to Earth Brewfest at Third Street Station and GalactiCon Sci-Fi & Film Festival at the Roswell Mall — Jennings said, “the feeling and energy in the downtown area was phenomenal.”

Jennings said the significant digital exposure from the “selfie-stations” and other social media experiences, and the film crews, were beneficial for promoting the city.

One area for growth that she and her team touched on in their department recap meeting was they would like to see more community participation in the light parade in the future. Last year, Jennings said the parade was “amazing” and drew a huge crowd. This year some visitors said the parade was shorter than expected and Jennings said the delivery, “fell a little bit short this year compared to last year.” However, she said she thinks with more community involvement and planning it can improve next year.

Near the visitor center, the state’s tourism department had its NM True bus and Jennings said their presence extended visitors an opportunity to experience tourism around the state. Jennings added their presence was important, considering their tour from last week when Roswell received its NM True report card, in strengthening the partnership between the city and the state.

“It was our opportunity to showcase the amount of traffic our city receives due to this festival and what we do for the state of New Mexico,” Jennings said.

For the Visitors Center, Jennings cited record-breaking attendance numbers. Last year, she said 895 visitors came to the center during the entire festival. This year, Jennings said they had 400 visitors at 11 a.m. on Friday and a grand total of 3,341 visitors for the weekend, which does not include those that did not sign the sign-in sheet. She said the center asked for zip codes in order to use them in targeted marketing campaigns for future festivals.

Another topic that Jennings said was discussed in her department was prioritizing that the city is providing the best service and keeping the city clean and beautiful through the work of the sanitation department.

Jennings said the city will also be working on providing more power and electricity next year. She said it is a challenge the city always faces and it will be important for vendors to bring their own generators, while the city will continue to address the issue.

Also stating that the festival went “phenomenally,” Kathy Lay, executive director for MainStreet Roswell, said she has received “wonderful reports” from vendors and attendees alike. Lay said in the feedback she is receiving, repeat attendees are sharing that this was the best year they have attended, and that newcomers plan on coming back next summer. Lay said the rock painting at the craft station and the music and entertainment were highly praised events in the festival.

“So we feel like the signs so far — from all of the response we’re getting — that it was a big success,” Lay said. “I can’t possibly thank (enough) the hard working people, our team, volunteers, the city, our partners in every dynamic — we had tremendous partners so we’re real happy.”

Lay said there were 78 vendors (some with multiple booths) and 88 spaces ranging from $50 for nonprofit space, a regular booth for $250, and $350 for the restaurants with cleaning deposits. Lay said one of the food vendors sold 2,000 pounds of meat at their stand and another vendor reported that they quadrupled sales this year.

Looking over the surveys from this year’s festival, Lay said she noticed a trend where visitors were reporting that they stayed in Roswell for 4 to 5 nights, instead of one to two nights as listed in the past. In regard to attendance, Lay said the first day and last day is usually slower, but this year drew crowds early and Lay said people wanted to stay up until the end.

For the next few weeks, Lay said MainStreet will review the surveys and check the data received throughout the city to have an understanding of how many people attended this year’s UFO festival.

On feedback for improvement, Lay said visitors requested the festival to be extended to five days for more time to experience it all. Lay added that she thought the Fourth of July Mike Satterfield Fireworks Extravaganza, GalactiCon Sci-Fi & Film Festival, and the UFO Festival’s timing staggered well.

As far as clean-up and tear-down, Lay said it went smoothly with unbelievable organization that took months of planning, combined with efforts from hardworking volunteers.

Elaine Mayfield, the coordinator for GalactiCon, said she was pleased with the mostly positive feedback received this weekend, drawing crowds both Friday and Saturday. Originally, Mayfield expected less of a turnout since this year was not an anniversary year — but said this year was as good as last year.

Mayfield did say the costume contest had an increase in contestants this year. Mayfield said people tend to compare GalactiCon to “Christmas in July” — with 34 vendor booths with everything from steampunk to illustrations and more. This year GalactiCon charged a $5 admission fee and Mayfield said it was still successful. For next year, Mayfield said the team would like bring back the film festival shoot-out.

Mayfield said she enjoyed the many facets of the film festival, the vendor hall, Comic-topia trivia game, gaming, workshops and panels and their special guest Garrett Wang. Lay said Wang was gracious, warm and friendly to all the visitors at the festival. Mayfield added that the Steampunk Ball was fabulous and she had the opportunity to talk with many people from around the country this weekend.

Jim Hill, International UFO Museum and Research Center Director, said last year, the 70-year anniversary, was record-breaking — but this year’s numbers came in close with the grand total of 9,168 visitors. Hill said the museum has around 225,000 visitors annually. Additionally, Hill said a vast majority of visitors are from a 200-mile-radius with only a half of a percent local visitors.

Hill said the museum is in the beginning of reviewing the data and will have the demographics in the next couple of weeks.

Calling it another successful year, Hill commended Juliana Halvorson, MainStreet Roswell, UFO Festival committee and the volunteers, who “did an outstanding job.” He added that the museum had a lot of positive feedback about what was available to visitors. Though he is still in the process of reading the reviews, Hill said he heard that guest speaker Travis Walton, an alleged alien abductee, was well-received, along with the other speakers in the many facilities around the city.

“I think it was just an exceedingly well-run event and I can’t imagine the city of Roswell not having benefitted greatly from this festival happening,” Hill said.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.