SALT LAKE CITY — Who knows if alien aficionados converging this weekend on tiny Hiko, Nevada, will find flying saucers, extraterrestrials, xenomorphs or even little green men?
But they’re sure to encounter at least a few Latter-day Saint-owned cows.
Folks at Hiko’s so-called Alien Research Center in rural Lincoln County are hosting a two-day festival featuring live music, presentations from Ufologists and alien-inspired art installations.
The gathering, of course, was inspired by the tongue-in-cheek Facebook event dubbed: “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.”
Millions pledged to gather at the Nevada Test and Training Range on Sept. 20 to storm the fabled Area 51 and, well, “see them aliens.” Pretty much everyone was in on the Facebook joke — but unknown numbers are still expected to turn onto Nevada’s state Route 375 (aka the Extraterrestrial Highway) and head to Hiko for this weekend’s “‘Storm’ Area 51 Basecamp” festival.
Now back to the cows.
John Sanders manages The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Southern Nevada Beef Cattle Ranch headquartered across the street from the Alien Research Center. The ranch is home to about 3,000 cows and is part of the church’s vast welfare system.
The veteran cattleman has no clue how many people will show up for this weekend’s Area 51 Basecamp festivities — but he and the cows will have a great view of all the action.
“We’ve heard rumors around town that 2,000 people had reserved campsites and the (organizers) have maybe a 40-acre area that they’ve gated off. … But I don’t know if anyone has a feel for just how many.”
Still, Sanders and his co-workers at the church welfare cattle ranch are preparing for waves of would-be alien hunters.
“We’ve made sure that all the fence (along the highway) is in good repair and we’ve hung ‘No Trespassing’ signs at every gate,” he said.
Church service missionaries at the welfare ranch also topped fence posts near the highway with fluorescent paint. “We just want to make sure that everybody understands that the ranch is posted (private property),” Sanders said.
A sizeable law enforcement presence, at least by Hiko standards, is expected to be in town to help keep visitors from planet Earth and beyond all safe.
Sanders calls the southern Nevada desert both remote and unforgivingly arid. Keeping the cows on the welfare ranch healthy and hydrated is a day-to-day chore.
About 1,300 people live near the Hiko area. There’s only a couple of gas stations and cellphone coverage can be spotty when demand is high.
The actual Area 51 isn’t that close to the Latter-day Saint cattle ranch. The entrance to the Nevada Test and Training Range encircling the locale long synonymous for paranormal activity is 49 miles away in the desert town of Rachel. So anyone who didn’t get the Facebook joke and is still determined to storm Area 51 will likely get themselves collared far from the church property.
About 75 people arrived early Friday at a gate at the military base and at least two were detained by sheriff’s deputies. Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee estimated late Thursday that about 1,500 people had gathered at the festival sites and said more than 150 people also made the rugged trip several additional miles on bone-rattling dirt roads to get within selfie distance of the gates.
The welfare cattle ranch is close enough to Nellis Air Force Base that Sanders often sees military aircraft training in the skies above. But he’s yet to spy anything extraterrestrial.
His next alien encounter will be his first alien encounter.
As the UFO seekers show up for this weekend’s festival in Hiko, Sanders doesn’t think the cows will be too upset.
“The cows might stare at them a bit — that’s what cows do.”
Contributing: Associated Press