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Organizers expect possible record crowds for UFO Festival

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Based on social media analytics, ticket sales and recent visitation to Roswell, organizers of the 2021 UFO Festival and related events expect attendance will at least match that of 2019.

The International UFO Museum and Research Center believes this will be a record-breaking year for its UFOlogist Invasion.

“Based on what we’ve experienced so far this year, we think 2021 is going to break records, and 2019 was a record-setting year,” Museum Director Jim Hill said.

Juanita Jennings, public affairs director for the city of Roswell, was just a bit more conservative in her prediction.

“I think we are definitely seeing numbers equivalent or a little bit greater than 2019, and that’s just based on the traffic that we’ve already seen in the Visitor Center,” she said.

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The UFO Museum has seen its visitor numbers increase by 20% since March, Hill said.

“We’re blowing 2019 out of the water, attendance wise,” he said.

Based on those figures as well as media inquiries, Hill said the museum expects to exceed 2019’s visitation of 13,000 to 14,000 people through the four-day lecture series.

This is the first year the museum has sold tickets for its lectures, due to the uncertainty earlier this year of what health restrictions would be in place for the July festival. Hill said ticket availability has been opened up since the governor announced the state would drop restrictions on July 1, the first day of the lecture series.

Three of the lectures with the biggest names are already sold out — Travis Walton, Whitley Strieber and the panel discussion on alien abductions that includes Walton, Strieber, Kathleen Marden, Thom Reed and Derrel Sims.

The city has been keeping an eye on social media analytics, and Jennings said the UFO Festival’s Facebook page showed posts had reached 302,000 people and had 32,000 engagements as of Tuesday.

“The data looks amazing. Everything’s green arrows up, which we really love,” she said of Facebook’s analytics.

The festival’s website, ufofestival.com, actually crashed last week from the amount of traffic, Jennings said.

One event of the festival, the teen electronic dance music pool party, has been canceled due to lack of interest, but other events have already proven to be popular, Jennings said.

“I thought it was going to be a really neat experience to have something for teens and maybe we missed the mark on that one,” Jennings said. “But I do think that there’s plenty of other opportunities throughout the city that teens can go to.”

A night of stargazing Friday at Bottomless Lakes State Park proved to be so popular, organizers added a second night Saturday. Both have sold out, according to the website’s schedule of events. A sunrise hike on Sunday has also been popular, Jennings said.

She speculated the state’s skies are a draw for those events.

“You have to think the visitors that are coming to New Mexico, they’re not used to the big, open sky like we have and the beauty of the sunsets. Most of them are coming from very metropolitan cities where maybe they’re seeing large skyscrapers,” she said.

“It’s such a unique offering and it was limited in the number of people. I wasn’t surprised it sold out but definitely can see why there is interest in those,” she said.

Hill said the lifting of pandemic restrictions likely has people ready to get out of their homes and own communities.

“I think that is a large part of it. People just want to get out and they’ve got money to spend and they’re going at it,” he said.

One thing that does have Jennings nervous about the crowds is whether or not the city will have enough supplies of its branded merchandise, city guides and city maps for all the visitors.

“We’ve had such a hard time with suppliers getting merchandise in, that I do believe we’re going to run out,” she said.

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

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