RACHEL — Most places that have become tourist destinations have websites designed to entice visitors. As you’ve likely realized over the past few months, Rachel isn’t like most places.
“STAY AWAY FROM RACHEL NEXT WEEKEND!” the town’s official site, rachel-nevada.com, warned this week. It was the latest escalation in a series of dire forecasts on the website since the Storm Area 51 phenomenon took hold.
“I’m actually getting a lot of support from all the residents,” webmaster and Rachel inhabitant Joerg H. Arnu says of the tactic. “Everybody wants this to go away. Everybody but the Little A’Le’Inn. They are the only ones making money off of it.”
Little A’Le’Inn co-owner Connie West, who’s preparing for who knows how many people to descend on her small motel, bar and diner this weekend, couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday morning. But she’s said that she reached out to neighbors and offered to rent their land to be used for parking and hoped the Alienstock festival could be a means to help the community.
“I would love for my neighbors over here to be able to pay three or four months of their mortgage,” she said in August.
Her business, the only commercial establishment in Rachel, was thrust into the national spotlight thanks to a Facebook post in June made by Bakersfield, California, college student Matty Roberts.
What began as a missive encouraging people to storm the secretive Air Force base to “see them aliens” morphed into a music festival that was thrown into disarray last week when Roberts and his team severed ties with West. She’s vowed to pick up the slack and stage the music festival, Thursday through Sunday, on her own.
“It was never a real sanguine feeling that this A’Le’Inn group could get this together and it would work out fine. And I still have that feeling,” says Bob Clabaugh, a 22-year resident of the tiny Lincoln County community. “And, honestly, I’ll be very surprised by Monday morning if there wasn’t a lot of remorse — not with those people, but with the county and the officials — over what happened.”
“We are not being kept in the loop. Nobody talks to us,” Arnu says. “So of course there’s animosity.”
More than 2 million Facebook users claimed they would participate in the event. Even before the festival devolved into threats of litigation, though, no one could be certain how many people would show up in the rural outpost that’s 40 miles from anything.
“We’re concerned about an influx of too many people who can’t be controlled or wanna roam around,” Clabaugh says. “There’s a lot of crazy people in this world anymore.”
Arnu says he’s part of a group of eight landowners who he figures control roughly half of the acreage in Rachel. They, and others, probably will take turns keeping watch over their property — and festivalgoers.
“I’m mostly concerned about the time at night when the concert ends,” Arnu says. “People are drugged, people are drunk, and people want to get stupid. And that’s when bad things happen.”
The two men say they’ve installed high-powered lights, the sort usually used for illuminating tennis courts or large parking lots, so they can see people approaching their homes. One of his neighbors, Arnu says, is driving in from the East Coast, solely to protect his property.
“I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent upgrading my property defenses,” Arnu admits. “We fully expect it to get ugly.”
For his part, Clabaugh is planning to spend this weekend hunkered down.
“I’ll just lock my gate and stay in my house and hope for the best,” he says. “Because, you know, there’s no way the sheriff’s going to be able to do any kind of thing up here to keep people from doing crazy stuff.”
As for Arnu, he has no plans to check out the festival, whatever it may bring.
“Honestly, I have no interest in that kind of music,” he says, of the event that spans several genres. “Even if I did, I wouldn’t leave my property unprotected.”