‘Storm Area 51’ hype on Facebook fuels festival

The call to raid an Air Force base for aliens was a joke, drawing on decades of conspiracy theories.

Then 2 million people signed on to the Facebook event.

Authorities warned against an actual attempt to enter the base. And now, unless plans go awry, hordes of strangers will, indeed, gather in the Nevada desert next month near a secretive government facility called Area 51.

The man who created the internet sensation, “Storm Area 51 — They Can’t Stop All of Us,” is planning a real-life festival called Alienstock near the remote base within the Nevada Test and Training Range, a couple hours’ drive northwest of Las Vegas. The three-day festival set to start Sept. 20, a celebration of aliens that promises surprise performances, art installations and camping, is expected to pack a tiny town already overrun by media attention and a spike in extraterrestrial enthusiasm.

With just over a month left to plan and some residents reportedly less than thrilled about the attention, the organizers are focused on the logistics of bringing thousands to a town of 54 people, as counted in the last Census. They’re fending off suggestions they could be planning the next Fyre Festival, the 2017 event that fell apart spectacularly and led to fraud charges.

And the internet frenzy over “Storm Area 51” has thrust Rachel, Nev., into a new limelight and tested residents’ patience.

“Of course it’s scary,” said Connie West, whose alien-themed inn declares on its website that it is “BOOKED SOLID FOR ALIEN-STOCK.” “But I’m excited,” she told The Washington Post. “How can I not be?”

The U.S. government denied Area 51’s existence for decades before a public records request in 2013 showed it to be real. Government documents make no mention of aliens, describing the site as an aircraft testing area. But revelations two years ago of a $22 million Defense Department program on “anomalous aerospace threats,” commonly known as UFOs, have helped keep speculation about the Nevada facility alive.

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