HIKO, Nevada (AP) — Sound checks echoed from a distant main stage while Daniel Martinez whirled and danced at dusty makeshift festival grounds just after sunset in Rachel, the Nevada town closest to the once-secret Area 51 military base.
Martinez’s muse was the thumping beat from a satellite set-up pumping a techno tune into the chilly desert night on Thursday.
Warm beneath a wolf “spirit hood” and matching faux fur jacket, the 31-year-old Pokemon collectible cards dealer said people, not the military base, drew him to drive more than six hours from Pomona, California, alone.
“Here’s a big open space for people to be,” he said. “One person starts something and it infects everybody with positivity. Anything can happen if you give people a place to be.”
Minutes later, the music group Wily Savage started, and campers began migrating toward main stage light near the Little A’Le’Inn.
The music kicked off weekend events — inspired by an Internet hoax to “see them aliens” — that Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said had drawn perhaps 1,500 people to two tiny desert towns.
Lee said late on Thursday that more than 150 people also made the rugged trip on washboard dirt roads to get within selfie distance of two gates to the Area 51 United States (US) Air Force installation that has long fuelled speculation about government studies of space aliens and UFOs.
The Air Force has issued stern warnings for people not to try to enter the Nevada Test and Training Range, where Area 51 is located.
Lee said no arrests were made.
“It’s public land,” the sheriff said. “They’re allowed to go to the gate, as long as they don’t cross the boundary.”
Authorities reported no serious incidents related to festivals scheduled until tomorrow in Rachel and Hiko, the two towns closest to Area 51. They’re about a 45-minute drive apart on a state road dubbed the Extraterrestrial Highway, and a two-hour drive from Las Vegas.
Earlier, as Wily Savage band members helped erect the wooden frame for a stage shade in Rachel, guitarist Alon Burton said he saw a chance to perform for people who, like Martinez, were looking for a scene in which to be seen.
“It started as a joke, but it’s not a joke for us,” he said. “We know people will come out. We just don’t know how many.”
Electronic dance music DJ and recording artist Paul Oakenfold was yesterday’s headliner in Hiko.
The event also promises food trucks and vendors, trash and electric service, and a robust security and medical staff.