With two weeks to go before alien-obsessed crowds are poised to possibly descend on a rural Nevada county for "Storm Area 51," officials have given the final permits to a pair of festivals that may draw thousands to the area.
The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners gave final approval on Tuesday of a promoter's plan to hold a music festival for 5,000 people in tiny Hiko and an inn owner's effort to let perhaps 10,000 camp on her property in Rachel, the town closest to the once top-secret Area 51 military base.
Area 51 is popularly known as the site of rumored government studies of outer space aliens. The "Storm Area 51" Facebook event went viral in July as people pledged to crash the secret military base in an attempt to "see them aliens" and has grown in scale in recent weeks. More than 2 million Facebook users have now said they are going, with over 1.4 million replying they were interested.
The Internet joke that went viral has spurred two rural Nevada counties to draft an emergency declaration, with the sheriff planning to team resources with the state and neighboring counties ahead of Sept. 20-22 events.
“Still pretty concerned knowing we don’t know how many people will be coming,” Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee told FOX5 on Tuesday. The sheriff added that plans as of now call for more than 300 police officers and first responders to be brought in from around the state. Officers from Las Vegas will also be on standby if needed.
“We got to figure out how we’re going to get all those agencies to talk to one another and communicate that back to our 911 center and to make sure everything flows because in any large incident, probably the biggest downfall has always been communication,” Lee added.
The Little A'Le'Inn in Rachel has scheduled an event called Alienstock on Sept. 20-22, while The Alien Research Center souvenir shop in Hiko has planned a Sept. 20-21 expo called Storm Area 51 Basecamp.
Keith Wright, who is helping to plan the event at the Alien Research Center said so far 250 people have purchased tickets and they are capping capacity at 5,000 people. Wright told FOX5 that entertainment and speakers have been lined up and that $80,000 is being put toward building infrastructure such as restrooms, water, and security.
“This is the most unknown event I’ve ever dealt with in my life which is exciting and terrifying all at the same time,” he said Tuesday.
Little A’Le’Inn owner Connie West has previously said she is transforming 30 acres of land into where "Alienstock" will take place. The event is expected to be free except for camp site parking, for which 700 people have purchased camp site passes so far.
“Elated, and I’m shaking inside. You know that just means it’s even realer than it was,” West told FOX5 after the meeting.
Commissioners and Sheriff Kerry Lee have said promoters' plans to bring in food, water and entertainment could help people survive in the desolate desert nearly three hours' drive from Las Vegas.
But neighbors in the tiny towns are still not sure if everything will get off without a hitch.
“The infrastructure in Rachel is non-existent. There’s no gas station, the highway is not designed for that amount of traffic,” resident Joerg Arnu told FOX5 on Tuesday.
Arnu, who said he's spent more than $1,000 preparing his home with temporary fencing and lighting for whatever may come, said he's worried for the safety of other residents and visitors.
“There’s going to be a lot of very unhappy people because they won’t find what they’re expecting and will turn against the town,” he said.
Fox News' Chris Ciaccia and The Associated Press contributed to this report.