It may seem, sometimes, like they're from another planet, but don't think of Gene Frazier and Thomas Armstrong as space cadets.
The two residents of this city in southeastern New Mexico are planning to capitalize on Roswell's famous UFO past with Earth Station Roswell, a $45-million resort complex featuring a spaceship-shaped hotel, spa, restaurants, shops, sci-fi theatre, concert arena, exhibits, light shows and tropical garden. Just think of it all, they say, as a space station with out-of-this-world technology, left on Earth by aliens.
Since July, 1947 when a mysterious crash happened on the area's Foster ranch – whether it was an alien spaceship or weather balloon has been hotly debated and the subject of many movies – Roswell has become the "Holy Grail" for UFO fanatics, says Frazier, an architect/concept designer and a principal in Earth Station Roswell.
So much so that today through Sunday, 30,000 of them will trek to Roswell for the town's annual UFO festival, which features a UFO parade, alien costume contest, entertainment, book signings, lectures and panel discussions on topics such as alien abductions, alternate theories of UFO origins and talks about the Roswell incident.
And, of course, all those people need a place to stay.
Armstrong, who wrote the business plan for Earth Station Roswell (Earth Station Roswell
), came up with the idea originally for a spaceship-style motel/restaurant, but Frazier expanded the idea into a full-blown resort, slated to open in 2010.
Another businessman, Bryan Temmer of Orlando, Fla., hopes to create an extraterrestrial-themed amusement park in Roswell (Alien Apex Resort
) with an indoor roller coaster simulating an alienation abduction experience as the central attraction.
"But there will be no probing," jokes Temmer.
Alien Apex Resort would also include family-oriented rides and attractions, the latest in alien and UFO studies and a fireworks/musical display recreating the Roswell incident.
The plan has the support of the city and city planner Zach Montgomery has worked with Temmer to develop the proposal.
The state had offered $250,000 in start-up funds, but withdrew the money because it violated anti-donation rules. Now, he's seeking investors.
"I'm still determined to move ahead," says Temmer, who is a regular family guy who works in the information technology business and has a love for roller coasters and science fiction.
"It's not an easy task but the public is fascinated (by the Roswell incident), believers are fascinated, sceptics are fascinated."
The city's alien connection didn't really take off until the 1980s. That's when UFO researcher Stanton Friedman started gathering stories from those involved in the incident.
In 1992, Walter Haut, the army public relations officer who was ordered to write the July 8, 1947 press release saying the army had a "flying saucer" in its possession (he recanted the next day) and Glenn Dennis – a local mortician who claimed that a nurse on the base had told him of autopsies performed on aliens taken from the wreckage – founded the International UFO Museum and Research Centre.
Today it operates in a former movie theatre on Main St. (Haut and Dennis are deceased; Haut's daughter runs the museum now).
About 250,000 visitors come to Roswell (population 45,000) each year, strictly because of its UFO past, says Armstrong, who retired to the town in 2001 and operates the Roswell Landing gift shop.
But once the festival is over, there's not too much reason for visitors to stick around, except maybe to visit the kitschy UFO-themed shops along Main St. or visit the nearby Bottomless Lakes state park – named for the deep round lakes created by sink holes – and a trek through Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge with its 357 species of birds and 59 kinds of mammals.
With so little to actually do, it makes you wonder: Why would aliens choose this isolated city to come calling?
Armstrong figures they saw Roswell as a nuclear hot spot, of sorts, given that the world's first nuclear bomb was tested in nearby White Sands in 1945 and developed to the north in Los Alamos, and Roswell's army base had bombs stored in underground bunkers.
"Roswell had the only live nuclear base in the world," says Frazier. "Everybody knows it wasn't a weather balloon."
The mystery remains and public interest continues to grow, says Frazier, pointing out that references to Roswell in the new Indiana Jones and X Files movies have fuelled the fire, as have releases of secret government UFO reports worldwide.
The idea of a resort celebrating Roswell's legacy has been well received, he says.
"People are totally sold on it ... they are already calling to make reservations," says Frazier.