LINCOLN COUNTY — If you build it, will they come?
Organizers behind a pair of Storm Area 51 events will find out this week, as they are scrambling to get their sites ready a few days before festivities begin for an unknown amount of attendees.
The Alien Research Center in Hiko, home to the Area 51 Basecamp taking place Friday and Saturday, as of Tuesday had portions of its vendor village already set up.
The vendor village includes a mock Area 51 gate, industrial-grade generators and lighting, and Xtreme Cubes, which will be used as office space,
The Xtreme Cubes are stackable squares made of steel, surrounded by plexiglass, that have a variety of uses. One of the cubes will be used as a media staging area at Basecamp, Keith Wright, executive producer for the event, said.
Wright expects the stage, a virtual reality experience and other event features to arrive Wednesday and Thursday, to keep costs in check.
“Some of those pieces are pay by the day,” Wright said. “So, it makes no sense to have them here early and sit there for no reason.”
About 40 miles up Highway 375 at the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, where Alienstock will take place Thursday through Sunday, most of the land had been graded, some of the planned 100-plus port-a-potties are in place and stages are ready to be constructed on site.
Vendors were expected to show up Thursday to set up, with the first festivalgoers also expected to arrive.
On Monday, Little A’Le’Inn owner Connie West’s son, Cody Theising, and a group of friends and family members from California and Ohio cemented 20-foot-tall steel poles into the ground for Lincoln County Telephone to boost its wireless internet access by putting receivers on top of the poles.
Theising said he spent Monday grading the land and using a water truck to help keep the dust down.
“With all the people expected, we don’t want them to have to deal with dust being kicked up,” he said.
Funding a dream
Between the Little A’Le’Inn and the land where the festival will take place is a 5-acre lot not owned by West.
Herald Williams, a retiree out of Phoenix, was prepping his land with a temporary fence as he plans to charge attendees to park on a portion of his land, which is owned by his mother and brother, Lula and Don Williams.
The Williams’ family hopes to open a small market on their land, fittingly planned to be named Outpost 51. Proceeds from the parking charges will go toward funding their dream.
“We’re right smack dab in the middle of all of this,” Herald Williams said. “We’ve been saving for years, but this money will be some extra we can add to it.”
More trucks were expected to arrive later Tuesday with a second stage and more port-a-potties.
At the Lincoln County Board of County Commissioners meeting on Monday, it was revealed the latest count for Alienstock was around 250 RV and parking spots reserved, while the Area 51 Basecamp event had 100 tickets purchased and 50 camping spots claimed.
“We expect a large number of walk-up attendees for each event,” said Cory Lytle, Lincoln County director of planning and building. “So that number is expected to grow.”
Vendor interest in the pair of events has been steady, with people reaching out to Lincoln County from all over the country, Lytle said.
Last week, one of the creators of the Storm Area 51 movement, Matty Roberts, pulled out of attending the event in Rachel, shifting his focus on one in downtown Las Vegas, leading some people to believe Alienstock was canceled.
It was Roberts’ July social media post, which suggested the Air Force couldn’t stop a civilian invasion of a top-secret base known as Area 51 — long been rumored to house extraterrestrial technology — was “liked” by millions and triggered planning throughout the state for a massive September gathering.
Lytle had to deny some vendors’ requests for a temporary business license because he didn’t see the validity of certain interests.
Of those denied were an Indiana man looking to travel here just to sell water and an Uber driver out of Las Vegas who wanted to offer ride-sharing services to attendees at the two events, which are over 40 miles apart.
“I said, ‘You do realize you might be sitting in that car for four to five hours if it’s congested,’” he said. “He told me he might be more worried about his passengers if he just drops them off anywhere. So conceptually that’s somebody who doesn’t realize the logistics and topography of just what we’re working with.”
Residents in the surrounding towns in Lincoln County are on high alert for the effects the surge of people expected to storm their area this week could create.
Lytle said residents have reached out to the county in person, over the phone and via email expressing several worries.
“Residents have many, many, many concerns,” Lytle said. “They’re nervous. It’s a hard thing for them.”
Topping the list is the increase of traffic from those traveling from the Las Vegas area up U.S. Highway 93 to Route 375 to the two extraterrestrial events.
Lytle recalled that flooding from a storm in 2014 closed part of Interstate 15 just north of Las Vegas, sending motorists on a detour route up U.S. Highway 93 through Lincoln County.
“It was bumper to bumper, an absolute congested nightmare,” Lytle said. “That’s what people pictured when they thought about the thousands of people. These roads just don’t handle that kind of volume.”
The county is pulling $250,000 from interest accrued from the county’s land act fund to handle the expected cost with the event. Officials are not sure exactly how much of that they will use, but they wanted to have enough to not have to go back and request more through a commissioners meeting.
“You want to prepare for the worst and hope things turn into a positive,” Lytle said. “We’re cautiously optimistic.”