With thousands of visitors expected at “Storm Area 51” events in Hiko and Rachel next month, small businesses on the way to the rural towns are bracing for the invasion.
Alamo, nearly 100 miles north of Las Vegas and with a population of about 1,000, has some of the last stops for gas, food and liquor before the final 52-mile trek to Rachel, where the main event, Alienstock, is set for Sept. 20-22.
Cheyenne Bowman, a cashier at Great Basin Foods, a mid-size grocery in Alamo, is stocking up ahead of the Area 51 festivities. She called it the “biggest thing this town has seen.”
“We will be increasing our orders, and we’ll also be changing our hours,” said Bowman, who has lived in Alamo off and on for 12 years. “We’re going to have mandatory working hours for different employees.”
Along with the increased hours, the store plans to hire outside security during that time, she said.
“We are nervous because there are a lot of female employees here,” she said. “We’ll be nervous working those increased hours, but we’ll be greatly thankful for that increased security.”
Another problem could be brewing under the surface.
“In the valley, sewer and septic is limited, so a lot of establishments are going to have to bring in port-a-potties, hand wash stations and other extra stuff because we just can’t handle the capacity of these people all at once,” Bowman said.
Pam Broxson, owner of the Sunset View Inn, said she is nearly sold out on the days surrounding the event and is cautiously looking forward to it.
“As long as they don’t destroy my rooms, they can come here and have fun,” she said. “I have plenty of property out back. You can do what you want to do, just don’t destroy it yet.”
Each room is themed, Broxson said, and an alien-inspired one will be ready ahead of that weekend.
With the hotel sitting along U.S. Highway 93, traffic could be the biggest issue of all.
“It’s going to crash these whole towns. It’s going to kill us,” Broxson said. “It’s going to devastate us, but I’m prepared as we can possibly get.”
Connie West, owner of the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, is coordinating the Facebook-hoax-turned-festival for Matty Roberts, the Bakersfield, California, man who started the internet craze. West said she obtained a mass gathering permit for up to 10,000 people from Lincoln County.
The festival featuring music, food and other entertainment will take place on a 65-acre lot, with a large portion of that slated for vehicle and RV parking and camping. Genres will include country, rock and roll and electronic dance music, West said.
“We have some ideas in the works we’re working on,” she said. “There’s going to be some fun activities. Maybe there will be a giant water fight; maybe there will be a gigantic volleyball. Who knows?”
West said she plans to install in a portable stage, multiple port-a-potties, portable showers, a water station, a hand washing station and giant trash bins. There will be 100 security guards on site, some of them armed.
The event is garnering attention worldwide, as 96 media requests have been received, from outlets from as far as Denmark expressing interest in the event, West said.
“My phone rings nonstop,” she said. “I get 200-plus calls a day.”
Although not ready to make a commitments before the event, West said the possibility of making Alienstock an annual occurrence has crossed her mind.
“I hope that this is going to showcase what can be done,” she said. “I’m in business to stay in business. I hope it turns into a thing, a yearly thing.
“… I’ve jumped through every hoop I’ve been asked to, and I am sure there is going to be a few more. I’m just as terrified as the next person … but I’m just excited to see this happen. I’ve kind of been portrayed as the ignorant alien bartender from Rachel, and I’m excited to show the world what I can do.”