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For those of you who know me, it will likely come as no surprise to learn that I’m fascinated with the UFO phenomenon. Gifted with a telescope at the age of 10 and with encouragement from my grandfather, I turned my attention skyward and began scanning the heavens for signs of intelligent life on other planets. In fact, I’ve been researching all things flying saucer for more than 40 years and have amassed a small library of books and films on the topic.
Nowadays, the Internet is exploding with websites devoted to the search, and there are television shows dedicated to discovering the “truth” on multiple channels. I don’t necessarily believe everything I see, nor am I willing to jump on board with any old crackpot out there, but still… well, let’s just say that I observed a thing or two in the early ‘80s that cannot easily be explained and went so far as to contact the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON, www.mufon.com) and report my observations to them at the time. How fortunate, then, that we live in close proximity to Pine Bush, NY, a tiny hamlet that has become synonymous with UFOs.
Located in the Town of Crawford, with a population of fewer than 2,000, the majority of townsfolk were less than thrilled to have their quiet little town thrust into the spotlight during the mid-1980s, when a “flap” of UFO sightings garnered national attention, heightened by Ellen Crystali’s book “Silent Invasion: The Shocking Discoveries of a UFO Researcher.” Crystali’s book details scores of witnesses ‘testimony and delves deep into the subject matter, which in turn attracted more mainstream attention and drew people from all over the world, anxious to catch a glimpse of something otherworldly themselves.
On the heels of additional books, more tourists, and a comparison to the infamous Roswell, NM UFO “crash,” which allegedly took place in 1947, the town eventually gave in and embraced its reputation as “The Roswell of New York.” It created a UFO Street Fair that annually draws thousands to the region for UFO-themed food, guest lecturers, conferences and workshops devoted to the subject matter.
The festival (www.pinebushufofair.com) grows exponentially, and I attend every year in hopes of learning something new, meeting interesting authors, snapping some colorful photographs and catching the parade, which includes flying saucers, little green men, and even townsfolk wearing “protective” tin foil as headgear. In other words, something for everyone, aficionado or looky-loo. Having kept in contact through the years with History Channel UFO hunter Ron Milione (www.history.com), who, based on my MUFON report, interviewed me about 10 years ago, I looked him up and asked if he was planning to attend. “Let’s do it!” Milione replied. “I’m bringing the wife and dog (www.Facebook.com/Banditthepommilione), because they’re both anxious to meet Dharma, so let’s make a day of it!”
And so we did. I was thrilled to see that Travis Walton was on hand to discuss his story, which details his “alien abduction” in 1975 that was fictionalized in the 1993 film “Fire in the Sky.” Walton, whose story has been called “One of the most significant UFO events in history” (www.traviswaltonthemovie.com) is the subject of a new documentary: “TRAVIS—The True Story of Travis Walton.” It has already won several film festival awards. Along with a screening and lecture the night before, Travis made himself available to discuss and sign copies during the fair. While Ron chatted with him, I took some pics and chipped in my two cents, reminded that Walton was originally reticent to share his experience and did his best to stay out of the limelight for years before the making of the film. To this day, the man is still very low key and (IMHO) one of the most believable, especially in light of the police investigation that took place during the time of his disappearance, which lasted five days and was the subject of national scrutiny.
On a lighter note, we took our seats for the “Miss Galaxy” beauty pageant, which featured contestants from far beyond the Milky Way. The winner, a lovely blue alien known simply as “Ruslka,” was “anxious to meet the Wonder Dog” and did so before we left town, headed for the Cup and Saucer Diner (like ‘em on Facebook!) which had been on my agenda for years. The food, as promised, was “out of this world.”
“Oh, you’re the guy with the dog, right?” co-owner Steve Mavros asked spying the pooch at my side. “Maybe she’d like to go for a ride in the UFO patrol car.” Maybe next year, he’ll offer me a ride. Meanwhile, I’ll keep searching for the truth, for surely it is out there. For more photos of the Pine Bush UFO Fair, visit www.Facebook.com/theriverreporter.