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UFO Festival

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by Kathleen Messmer (subscribe)
As a photographer and travel journalist, I frequently find myself in different parts of the world. Follow my globe-hopping escapades at
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Photo Credit: Messmer

It was a dark and stormy night…

Just kidding. But, something happened in July 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico. The military said it was just a crashed weather balloon, but those in the know, know it was so much more.

Fast forward to present day and the Roswell UFO Festival. Everything you could possibly want to know about Roswell, especially "the incident," is to be found here.

Upon arrival, I started walking around behind the scenes to see what I could see. There was so much going on, I couldn't believe it. A pet adoption complete with alien costumes, a children's play area, an alien chess game complete with oversized alien pieces and players, and a military presence to protect everyone from the resident aliens.

Photo Credit: Messmer

Most people were dressed up in costumes up and down the thoroughfare, enjoying the alien vibe. The highlight, however, was the UFO Museum.

When first entering, they gave free t-shirts to anyone who wanted one. Of course, I had to nab one. I was now the proud owner of something officially alien.

I'd visited years before and wasn't impressed, but they've since remodeled and upgraded the exhibits, which makes for a much better, more authentic experience. The evidence and documentation they've gathered is very compelling, due in part to some digs they've done recently of the area where the crash was discovered. I'm not 100% convinced it happened at all, but it certainly invokes a fascinating conversation.

They had shards of metal from the crash site, a mandible impression from one of the aliens they autopsied, and it was compared side-by-side with a human mandible, as well as other artifacts that made you stop and think for a minute. Could this really have happened? Was the military genuinely engaged in a cover-up?

There were authors in attendance of several books on aliens. One author, in particular, was talking about watching his parents being abducted through his nine-year-old eyes. It was fascinating listening to everyone who had written books on personal experiences. I even met an older gentleman named Paul, who makes the trek every year from San Antonio, Texas, to attend the festival, complete with silver pointy headgear to protect him from alien rays.

In addition to everything else that's cool about Roswell, there are many "did you knows" I'm willing to bet you didn't. For example, did you know that John Denver and Demi More were born there? Louise Holland Coe lived there and was the first woman elected to the New Mexico Senate and later ran for Congress. Sam Donaldson and Roger Staubach attended the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell. Priscilla Presley lived there when her father was stationed at Walker Air Force Base. And finally, Roy Rogers lived there in the 1930s under his birth name of Leonard Slye. Roswell also offers an Artist in Residence program through the Roswell Museum, whose artists' works appear in public and private collections worldwide.

While Roswell is something of a "tourist" town, it isn't exclusively about aliens. It's a small town where people live, raise families, sometimes act a fool, go to work, make ends meet, and value their community. What I witnessed in this community stirred my heart, wondering if I could live somewhere like that.

Following my UFO experiences, I was running on empty—me, not my car. So I decided to pull into a local restaurant because a visit to Roswell would not be complete without a visit to a local eatery. I chose the Cattle Baron, which turned out to be "the" place to eat in Roswell.

As you might have guessed by the name, it's a steak restaurant. But not just steak, seafood, salads, chicken, unique appetizers, bread that's out of this world (pun intended), and incredible desserts. I went home with a full belly and some wonderful, albeit brief, memories of a fun time in Roswell, New Mexico.
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