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UFO Festival planners meet with stakeholders

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The public got a first chance to hear from those collaborating on the 2021 UFO Festival at a stakeholders meeting Friday at the Roswell Recreation and Aquatic Center.

About a dozen people — several representing MainStreet Roswell and the hospitality industry — attended the event Friday afternoon in the gym, which allowed for social distancing.

Stephanie Mervine, the city’s tourism director, and Juanita Jennings, director of public affairs, were on hand to help with questions and discussion, while the co-founders of the company contracted by the city to manage the festival attended virtually.

Matt Spencer and Robert Chapman founded In Depth Events in 2017 after working events in the Dallas area for about 12 years.

The company has managed a variety of large events from political events for both parties to municipal events like the UFO Festival and last year produced 22 hybrid graduations.

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The duo said planning an event like the UFO Festival during a pandemic, not knowing what the public health order will be in July, does present challenges. The festival is planned for July 2-4. Spencer and Chapman were in Roswell in January to visit with city officials and business owners.

While specific plans weren’t discussed at the meeting, the city and In Depth are proceeding with plans for in-person events, Jennings said.

One thing is certain, and that will be a virtual component to the festival, Chapman said.

“In a post-COVID world, there are certain trends that are already coming out. Virtual events are here to stay. There will always be a virtual component to every large event,” he said.

The company is also working on the logistics of the festival such as security and safety with the police department, fire department and ambulance service.

“With anything, prior planning prevents poor performance, and we’re really good at those types of events, making sure everything happens. Everything from making sure the right bottles of water are there in addition to trucking, logistics, hotels, audio, vendors, all the little parts and pieces that make up an event of this size,” Chapman said.

It was the size the event was becoming that prompted MainStreet Roswell to step away from managing the festival, which it had done since 2014, Kathy Lay, executive director of MainStreet Roswell, said.

“MainStreet is a nonprofit whose whole mission is to support the downtown vitality. The festival had grown to the point that it wouldn’t fit within our district any longer and be successful,” she said.

MainStreet Roswell will still have some partnership with the city as it conducts its own events, dubbed AlienFest, Lay said.

“By letting the city take over the overarching city-wide events, we have more time for our volunteers, our eight-member board, to just focus on doing activities downtown during the day that help drive foot traffic into businesses,” Lay said.

Both Lay and Jennings said that doesn’t mean the city won’t support MainStreet and the downtown businesses.

“We’re hoping the partnership that we have with MainStreet will let them focus on their district and then we’re going to support and collaborate in the district too,” Jennings said.

The city’s visitor center downtown will have activities and the city’s animal shelter will have an adoption event downtown, Jennings said.

MainStreet Roswell has a website for its AlienFest at ufofestivalroswell.com, while the city plans to launch its website, ufofestival.com, on April 1.

Spencer and Chapman of In Depth Events will be in Roswell again at the end of March and will give a presentation to the City Council’s Finance Committee on April 1.

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

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