Independence Day began with Roswell saluting veterans of foreign wars and their families with an indoor picnic at the Roswell Adult Center. It’s organizer, Sheila McKnight, estimated 10,000 veterans live in the three southeastern counties of Chaves, Eddy and Lea.
By mid-afternoon, people began gathering on the grass of Cielo Grande with blankets, folding chairs, water bottles and frizbees. The Roswell Recreation Department provided live musical entertainment. The Chaves County Community Youth Band played patriotic music, followed by the Unforgiven Band playing nostalgic foot-stomping rock and roll until the sun went down, while children of all ages ran around the park with many-colored glowing gadgets, flexible rods or bands, that they wore around their necks, their arms and legs, or tossed into the air or whirled like hoola-hoops.
Mother Nature provided her own light show while the crowd waited for total darkness and the manmade Fourth of July fireworks to begin at the Cielo Grande outdoor recreation area.
The big show began with Joelle Elliot beautifully singing the National Anthem.
The costly fireworks display provided to the residents of Roswell and the surrounding area was phenomenal. It lasted an hour and was a concerted effort by many — including the Roswell Fire Department, the Roswell Recreation Department and the Roswell Police Department — to provide a safe way for families to celebrate Independence Day. During the light show, an emotional recording was played of President George W. Bush announcing the demise of the Columbia, with all lives on board lost. As the sky continued to explode with light and sound, the President spoke of the importance of this day, and of the men and women who fought throughout the many decades since 1776, many of them making the supreme sacrifice, so all Americans can be free.
“We’ve got aliens coming out our ying yang!” proclaims a t-shirt in a downtown store window. And that is the truth of it in Roswell, especially in early July.
Is Roswell the only place in America where, year around, signs on bars, motels, storefronts and malls say, “Crash with us,” or “Aliens Welcome” or “Crash Pad” –? More than one Roswell building has part of a saucer sticking out of its top or corner, and the names of businesses on the Main drag tend to be other worldly.
Roswell held its first UFO Festival six years ago, in 1997 celebrating 50 years since the crash. It’s success was even beyond its developers’ imaginations. Ever since, the phenomenon has annually brought an average of 200,000 visitors from all over the USA and the world to Roswell on alien-seeking missions.
Before that, most people, including Roswellites, never knew something weird occurred near here in 1947. Since the publicity began, however, there are few crannies of the universe — well, the globe anyway — that the name “Roswell” does not evoke visions of little wide-eyed green or gray creatures, crashed crafts of unknown origin and a giant government cover-up. Everyone loves a good mystery, especially one that might never be solved. Most also like to think the government is devious. It surely has secret knowledge of unidentified flying objects, or at least of a Cold War incident that they surely could unclassify by now. Why won’t they tell us?
The crash in a cowboy’s lonely pasture happened the night of July 5, 1947. Therefore, the annual festival celebrating it occurs around our nation’s birthday. The Festival began this year on Thursday, July 3 and ended Sunday, July 6.
Events on Thursday included a carnival at the fairgrounds; “The Great UFO Mystery” at the Roswell Planetarium; “Flying Saucers” play presented by the Roswell Community Little Theater; guest speaker Derrel Sims at the UFO Museum; Alien Rock and Bowl at the Town and Country Lanes; an after-dark UFO Electric Light Parade down Main Street Roswell — and that was just the first day!
Friday opening ceremonies at the fairgrounds’ main gate was an event itself; then there was the carnival at the fairgrounds; the Alien marketplace where aliens and friends sold all kinds of wares, souvenirs and food; the ongoing Classic Sci-Fi Film Festival; “The Great UFO Mystery;” the UFO Independent Music Festival; guest speaker Jeff Willes; a UFO craft workshop for all ages; various acts on the main stage; guest speaker Ann Druffel; guest speaker Paola Harris; “Flying Saucers” presented by RCLT; “The Great UFO Mystery” at the Planetarium; the city’s awesome nighttime 4th of July fireworks display at Cielo Grande, accompanied by music and other entertainment; followed by a Laser Light Show at the Planetarium.
Saturday events kicked off early with runners of all ages competing at the Alien Chase at DeBremond Stadium; most of Saturday’s events reflected those of Friday except for one giant addition:
Merle Haggard’s first annual UFO Music Festival was held at Roswell’s Fairgrounds Rodeo Arena; in addition to his road band, The Strangers, he brought along some friends, Pam Tillis and Marty Stuart.
Haggard was the M.C. and he introduced the other performers. Pam Tillis thrilled the crowd with her expert showmanship and singing her favorites, including some her daddy, Mel, wrote. Marty Stewart sang songs the crowd knew and they couldn’t resist jumping up and dancing and singing along with him. Merle would have brought the roof down — if there had been one — with all the hollering and foot stomping he caused.
This was something Haggard said he’s planned to do for several years, and he wants it to become a regular annual event in Roswell. He and his group came to Roswell the day after playing with Willie Nelson at his annual July 4th Picnic performance. He wants to see his UFO Music Fest in Roswell become as popular as Willie’s 4th event. Saturday night in Roswell, thousands turned out to enjoy Merle Haggard and his band, Pam Tillis and Marty Stewart.
Merle said his friend and idol, Lefty Frizell, was locked up in the Roswell jail on July 5, 1947. Merle was only a kid then, 10 years old, but he’s since asked Lefty many times what he knew about what happened around Roswell on that night.
blue=normal; lt. blue=advisory; yellow=alert, mild; orange=warning moderate; red=emergency, severe
Note: A large portion of the northeastern New Mexico quadrant began to have nourishing rains in June, so portions of above map that show an emergency drought condition have since been alleviated.
pink = emergency, severe drought; yellow = warning, moderate drought; blue = alert, mild drought
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