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UFO Festival, Galacticon canceled

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The 2020 UFO Festival and Roswell Galacticon are the latest victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.

MainStreet Roswell and Roswell Galacticon announced Monday the events, scheduled for July 3 to 5, have been canceled.

The International UFO Museum and Research Center canceled its part of the festival, the UFOlogist Invasion, on May 6.

Festival organizers said there were several factors in their decision, primarily Gov. Michele Lujan Grisham’s health order restricting the size of public gatherings to five, which is in effect through Friday. It is not yet known if the order will be extended.

“Even if she lifts restrictions, there’s going to be so many regulations that we wouldn’t be able to host a good festival,” said Juliana Halvorson, who leads the MainStreet Roswell committee that organizes the festival.

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“There is so much involved in putting together the festival that we’re not able to commit to until we know for sure that it’s going to happen,” said Kathy Lay, MainStreet Roswell executive director.

“There are contracts and there’s so much to get organized. It takes months in advance. We’ve been working on a lot of these things for months and we’ve had to put some of them on hold because of complications from the COVID outbreak,” Lay said.

“At this point, there would not be adequate time to put together the event successfully,” she said.

It’s the first time the festival, begun in 1996, has been canceled, Halvorson said.

The festival attracts about 10,000 people each year, according to the city of Roswell, and organizers were concerned not only about what crowd size restrictions might be in place in July, but also about the comfort of people if wearing masks is a requirement in 100-plus degree temperatures. The possibility of spreading the coronavirus was also taken into consideration, Halvorson said.

“We don’t have many cases here, and some of our board members, rightfully so, were a little concerned. We don’t want a lot of people from out of town bringing it here. We’ve done really well with not spreading it,” she said.

Chaves County has reported 27 cases and two deaths since the state’s first case was announced in March.

The committee was also concerned about waiting too long to make a decision to cancel and festival-goers and vendors having to cancel plans such as hotel reservations and travel, Halvorson said.

Mayor Dennis Kintigh said while he had been hopeful restrictions would be relaxed after Friday enough to allow the event to continue, even if delayed, he understands the decision.

A statement issued by the city reflected the mayor’s sentiment.

“The City of Roswell respects the decision made by MainStreet Roswell and the Galacticon organizers as they want to ensure the safety of all visitors, vendors and supporters,” the statement said.

“We are extremely saddened we will not get to share our beautiful city with the more than 10,000 visitors these events usually bring during the July 4th weekend, but are looking forward to having everyone back in 2021,” it said.

This is third large event in Roswell to be canceled, following Cinco de Mayo and Hike and Spike It.

The effects of the cancelations of those events are yet to be seen, Kintigh said.

“We’re in a time of real financial upheaval, and it’s going to be tough to know what the net effect on the economy is when you take into account all the other stuff that’s going on,” Kintigh said.

City Manager Joe Neeb has said in city council and committee meetings the city projects it will need to reduce its 2021 budget by more than $32 million.

Those figures include a 20% reduction from tourism-related revenue. Neeb said in an email Monday the possibility of the UFO Festival being canceled was taken into account in those calculations.

“The overall estimated projections of reductions in GRT are significant enough that we will not need to recalculate the estimate,” he wrote.

Kintigh pointed out the city will have some savings from the festival being canceled, such as extra costs for the street, sanitation, police and fire departments.

Kintigh said the city council will have a workshop next week to discuss the budget with city staff and a special meeting is planned for later this month.

Organizers said some of the activities from the festival and Galacticon will continue.

“Though we have had to cancel the events scheduled for the Roswell Convention Center, the Roswell Galacticon Sci-Fi Film Fest will be held digitally,” Elaine Mayfield, Roswell Galacticon director, said in the statement announcing the events’ cancelation.

“The winning films will be shown on our website during the original dates of July 3-5 and we are seeking the filmmakers’ permission to repeat showings throughout the month of July 2020.”

A virtual costume contest is also a possibility, Halvorson and Lay said.

MainStreet Roswell plans to conduct the Passport Program during the July 4 weekend to help out the downtown merchants, Lay said.

In that program, participants get a “passport” book that can be stamped by downtown merchants. With enough stamps, the participant can receive a gift bag.

“We’ve got amazing businesses downtown that are so creative and so unique, even for our locals. They’re not just tourist shops with just aliens only,” she said.

Lay said downtown businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic closures, so MainStreet Roswell will focus on helping them. There are about 160 businesses in the MainStreet Roswell district, she said.

“They are putting their heart and soul into these businesses. They’re a great support for our community, so anything we can do,” she said.

The organization will continue with its bottle caps for benches program to purchase benches for the district as well as the holiday lighting project, offering business training and the development of Market Walk venue in the railroad district, she said.

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