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Tourism council discusses UFO festival

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Pictured is Aurelie Guldager taking advantage of a NASA space suit photo-op during the UFO Festival last year. Kathy Lay, MainStreet Roswell executive director, said this particular photo-op will not be returning to this year’s UFO Festival. Lay also shared other updates at the Roswell Tourism Council’s recent meeting. (Alison Penn Photo)

Changes to the annual UFO Festival were discussed at a recent Roswell Tourism Council (RTC) meeting.

The RTC met on April 15 with 13 people in attendance at the Historical Society of Southeastern New Mexico’s Museum Archives Center at 200 N. Lea Ave. The council conducted its usual business and various community entities shared upcoming events.

Juanita Jennings, city of Roswell’s public affairs director, said an audit will be performed this year on the UFO Festival to get a more accurate count of visitors, and ensure compliance with state statutes and use of lodgers’ tax, a municipal tax collected from short-term rental lodgings. She said one of the biggest challenges of the festival is there is not a distinct point of entry, adding to the difficulty of tracking visitors.

Jennings also reminded the committee about the city of Roswell’s community branding launch on May 2 at 4 p.m. at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center (RCCC) at 912. N. Main St.

Kathy Lay, director of MainStreet Roswell, said the NASA space suit photo-op from last year will not be featured at the UFO Festival slated for July 5-7. However, Lay said there will be other “step and repeat” photo opportunities for visitors.

“So we’re trying to come up with anything outside the box,” Lay said. “And I think Juanita (Jennings) is really trying to help instill in us, is to try to think outside the box and make it such a unique festival that it doesn’t look like every other festival that comes in town. So we’re really trying to be creative and we’re really open to ideas, people. A brainstorm or an idea, we’re getting all kinds of interesting ideas — but sometimes that won’t work but it sparks other ideas too. So we really welcome input from people about what we’re doing with our event to try and help and improve and make it better.”

In light of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, Lay said that lunar landing collector coin sets, chalk art, a musical alien sculpture constructed of PVC pipe, a life-size chess set with alien pawns and moon-themed planetarium shows are also in the works or being considered for the festival. Securing a New Mexican astronaut for the parade’s grand marshall is something also being worked on, Lay said.

The New Mexico Museum of Space History will be returning with a larger-scale alien autopsy experience and their mobile museum.

In Pioneer Plaza near the Roswell Visitors Center, Jennings said there will be interactive miniature movie sets displaying the story of the alleged 1947 crash, leading festival-goers into the visitors center.

This year Elaine Mayfield said GalactiCon, Roswell’s comic convention, will be held at the RCCC instead of at the Roswell Mall at 4501 N. Main St. Mayfield said this location would anchor the north section of the festival.

Additionally, Jennings announced there is a vacant tourism-focused seat on the Occupancy Tax Board (OTB). State Rep. Phelps Anderson voiced that someone from the tourism council should apply or recommend a name of someone without a conflict of interest for that OTB tourism seat.

According to state statute, Jennings said the board is required to have two members from tourism, two from hospitality and one member at large. To apply, she said there is a one-page application on the city website under the ‘How Do I” tab and the board is a two-year commitment, for about four meetings a year. Ideally, Jennings said if applications are received within the next two weeks a nomination could be approved by the Roswell City Council at their May meeting.

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