See Photos From the 23rd Annual UFO Festival in Roswell, New Mexico

Every July in Roswell, you’ll find Storm Troopers, E.T.s, Transformers, Predators, USS Enterprise crew members, Men in Black, and varieties of little green men commemorating the summer of 1947. That's when rancher Mack Brazel discovered what appeared to be the debris from an unidentified flying object northwest of town.

The silver wreckage was recovered by the military from the Roswell Army Air Field, and years of speculation have ensued. However, it wasn’t really until the 1990s that interest in Roswell began to swell.

Between the popular writings of nuclear physicist turned UFOlogist, Stanton Friedman, the opening of the tourist and family-friendly International UFO Museum and Research Center, and blockbuster movies such as “Independence Day” (and of course TV's “The X-Files”), Roswell has become a pilgrimage site for believers and skeptics alike.

In 1996, Roswell locals organized a fun event to celebrate the anniversary of the crash. Festivities included a UFO-themed box car derby down Main Street and hospital gurney races with “aliens” strapped to the beds. Since then, the festival has drawn thousands of visitors from across the world to join in the celebration each year.

This year’s festival ran from July 5–7, with more than 15,000 people in attendance for the three day event. Saturday morning kicked off with the 25th annual Alien Chase, featuring a 10k and 5k run or walk, with many of the participants sporting alien-themed fashions.

One of the festival’s main attractions, the Alien Pet Contest, took place on the expansive lawn of the green-domed Roswell courthouse. Pulled in a cart to the tune of “Baby Shark,” two chihuahuas, Boo and Dasani, won first place as, “The Alien Sharks.” While this year’s contestants featured only canines, past years’ participants included cats, goats, horses, and lizards.

The International UFO Museum and Research Center teams up with the Festival to host lectures and readings with authors, speakers, and ufologists to educate visitors about The Roswell Incident and UFO phenomena. Panelists this year included Travis Walton, the infamous alien abductee whose experience inspired the 1993 movie “Fire in the Sky.”

The costume contests aren’t just for pets. The Alien Costume Contest (for people) is another popular event at the festival. There are multiple categories for both children and adults, such as, alien, cosplay, steampunk, and group costumes. Inventive costumes featuring unique character names and in-depth backstories help the judges cast their final votes. The big winners of the day were both the adult and child versions of the Diva Plavalaguna character from the 1997 science fiction movie The Fifth Element.

After a full day of contests, attractions, shopping, eating, and people watching in the 100 degree Roswell heat, Saturday evening concluded with the dazzling Electric Light Parade, where entrants in the costume contents were encouraged to participate.

Planning for the 2020 festival has already begun. As the organizer of the festival, MainStreet Roswell works closely with the City of Roswell, the International UFO Museum and Research Center, and many other community partners to make this event such a success.

For more information on next year’s festival, visit the UFO Festival website. Or if you can't wait, there are also Holland America Cruise Line’s UFO Cruise.

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