Only a Handful of People Showed Up to “Raid” Area 51, but It Still Got Weird

About 100 alien enthusiasts—and a whole bunch of reporters—traveled to Nevada to see how an internet joke would play out IRL

This week, a long-awaited “raid” of the secretive government site Area 51—which has for decades been rumored to contain evidence of extraterrestrial life—was set to take place in the small town of Rachel, Nevada. Inspired by a joke event on Facebook, which turned into a viral meme and garnered over 2 million attendees who claimed to want to “see them aliens,” the event has been a hot topic on the internet for months, as media outlets and government officials tried to determine exactly how many people would actually show up, and if the tiny desert community—which has a population of 54 and only four businesses—could handle it.

While the so-called “Alienstock” event it didn’t turn into the “humanitarian disaster” or Fyre Fest 2.0 that some folks—including the event’s original founder Matty Roberts—feared, a handful people did, in fact, make the pilgrimage to Rachel this week. And, needless to say, things got a little weird.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, about 100 alien enthusiasts gathered outside the back gate of the government facility on Friday morning at 3 a.m., along with a handful of law officers. While some crowd members acted like they were going to “storm” the gate, and others sporadically chanted “clap them cheeks”—in reference to an internet joke where people claim they wanted to have sex with the released aliens—mostly they just “stood there,” underwhelming some who had traveled long distances for the occasion. “I’m a little disappointed because it’s a lot less people than they said online,” one crowd member told the Review-Journal. “I don’t think I’ll be back (to the area). This was kind of the thing.”

Before the gathering dispersed, two people were arrested—one for reportedly trying to enter the gate and another for urinating on the fence. But this was apparently only the beginning of the festivities, which are planned to continue in towns surrounding the base into the weekend.

The New York Times described the scene later in the day in Rachel, where a festival stage was erected on Thursday: “People were setting up tents, hoisting inflatable green aliens and zipping through the desert on all-terrain vehicles.” Said one tinfoil cape-draped attendee named Mike Main: “I feel like I’m part of some awakening.”

According to TV station KTUU, Daniel Martinez, a 31-year-old Pokemon card dealer from Pomona donning a wolf spirit hood and faux fur jacket, “was among the first to whirl and dance at the dusty makeshift festival grounds.” “Here’s a big open space for people to be,” Martinez told KTUU. “One person starts something and it infects everybody with positivity. Anything can happen if you give people a place to be.”

Workers at the Little A’Le’Inn, which is the only hotel in Rachel and was booked up long before the event, seemed slightly less enthused. One employee told the Times that she and other employees had been working around the clock to accommodate the visitors. “We’ve got someone coming in a panda bear suit right now,” Pam Kinsey said early on Friday. “There’s all kinds of all kinds.”

However, Connie West—the co-owner of the Little A’Le’Inn who decided to spearhead the event after the original Facebook founder dropped out—seemed over the moon about the gathering in a Thursday evening interview with the Review-Journal. “I’m fabulous; I can’t even describe it,” she said. “This is the highest high I’ve ever been in my life. They said we couldn’t do it, and I did it. We did it.”

Meanwhile, 30 miles from Rachel, in the town of Hiko, Nevada, a more formally organized event called “Area 51 Basecamp” is set to take place, offering talks from self-proclaimed UFO experts, artists, musicians, and filmmakers. On its website, it calls the “mainstream momentum” of the Area 51 raid a “once-in-a-generation opportunity for the global public to learn more about the truth behind the UFO secrecy.”

But for those who really want to find out what’s going down inside the secretive government base, perhaps the best plan is to come back after things quiet down—just last week, two Dutch vloggers were able to make it three miles into the area before being detained and questioned.

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