By KEN RITTER
People dressed in costumes visit an entrance to the Nevada Test and Training Range near Area 51, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, near Rachel, Nev. People came to visit the gate inspired by the "Storm Area 51" internet hoax. (AP Photo/John Locher)
HIKO, Nev. (AP) — Bands played to a dwindling crowd of Earthlings late Saturday at one remaining festival spawned by a “Storm Area 51” internet craze in the remote Nevada desert.
Lights were dark at another venue where promoters pulled the plug because of low attendance.
Little A’Le’Inn owner Connie West vowed that a music program topped by the Los Angeles band Wily Savage would continue until midnight, as scheduled, in the tiny town of Rachel.
But bands playing from a temporary stage faced few people beneath a sky full of stars at a dusty venue where authorities tallied a peak of about 3,000 attendees on Friday.
“Things are ramping down,” Lincoln County emergency services chief Eric Holt said as darkness fell and first-responders from around the state began heading home.
“Area 51 Basecamp” was already dark, after pulling the plug the morning after a Friday concert-and-vendors just that drew just 500 attendees in Hiko.
“We put on a safe event for the people that showed up,” promoter Keith Wright said. “It was a gamble financially. We lost.”
West, in Rachel, said she was sad to hear the Hiko festival didn’t succeed.
“This is the most fabulous time,” West said. “It’s been a great turnout, and it wasn’t the humanitarian disaster that everyone claimed it would be.”
Holt, who said resources had been mustered to handle up to 30,000 people, called the low turnout a “best-case” scenario for a county with 5,200 residents in an area the size of Massachusetts. The county dipped into a $250,000 emergency fund to deal with an event that drew interested internet clicks from more than 2 million Facebook users.
Despite an initial suggestion that people rush the gates, festival organizers and authorities discouraged people from entering the military base.
More than 1,000 people visited gates Thursday and Friday, and more made the trek on long dirt roads near Rachel on Saturday.
Officials reported six arrests overall, mostly for misdemeanor trespassing on base property, a $1,000 fine. One man was arrested for disorderly conduct at a festival venue and one for public urination at a base gate.
In Nye County, west of Las Vegas, authorities reported no arrests after a total of about 200 people showed up early Friday at two remote gates to the once-secret Area 51 facility.
In Lincoln County, Sheriff Kerry Lee said about 20 people broke from among revelers early Saturday and “acted like they were going to storm, but stopped short.”
Holt said two people badly hurt Saturday in a rollover crash of a vehicle on a dry lake bed near Rachel were sent to hospitals in St. George, Utah, and Las Vegas, Holt said.
On Friday, one man was treated for dehydration by medics at the Rachel festival.
Two crashes also were reported involving vehicles hitting cows, Holt said. The cows died, but motorists weren’t hurt. Officials noted the highway between Hiko and Rachel is open range for cattle grazing.
While costumed space aliens were a common and sometimes hilarious sight in events that began Thursday, no one has reported seeing actual extraterrestrials or UFOs.
Keegan VanLuven, an 18-year-old from Auburn Hills, Michigan, who was thumbing a ride from Hiko to Rachel on Saturday said he experienced all he traveled to Nevada to do.
He visited the gates of Area 51, enjoyed the music at the “Area 51 Basecamp” concert on Friday night and made new friends, including a 23-year-old woman from Charlottesville, Virginia, with whom he was hitchhiking. She identified herself only as Amity.
“The people that didn’t come,” VanLuven said. “They missed out.” (Brilliant Deduction Pal)