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'Storm Area 51' proves a close encounter of the profitable kind

Matthew McNulty

The long-rumored alien invasion finally occurred near Nevada's notorious Area 51, but the beings who filled up hotels and restaurants were from other states and countries, not planets.

While some at least appeared to be little green men, thanks to costumes and makeup, the event shaped up as a close encounter of the best kind -- profitable -- rather than the third or fourth, which in UFO lore involve alient sightings and abductions.

The closest hotel to the government installation known as Area 51 is in Rachel, Nevada, a town with a population of just 54 people where the Little A'Le'Inn hotel sits a mere 18.4 miles from the military installation. Its 14 rooms were booked solid.

“There is no gas available in Rachel. Fill your tank in Alamo/Ash Springs from the east or Tonopah from the west,” the hotel’s website warns potential visitors. The only gas station in the town closed back in 2006. Alamo, 50 miles away, is home to the nearest one now.

While the so-called "Alienstock" had authorities and residents concerned, because of the strain it could put on local services, the crowd that materialized at the Air Force base's gates numbered a little over 100, smaller than the potential throng of 2 million.Thousands more traveled to festivals, and several hundred made forays in the direction of Area 51.

Meanwhile, Matty Roberts, a 20-year-old from Bakersfield, California, who sparked the Area 51 phenomenon with a late-night Facebook post and then broke with Little A'Le'Inn owner Connie West over production of the Rachel event, hosted a Thursday evening event at an outdoor venue in downtown Las Vegas -- also using the "Alienstock" name.

"It started as a joke, and now people are getting to know each other," said Tracy Ferguson, 23, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who said the internet gave him the idea to drive to Nevada with his girlfriend, Jade Gore, 19, of Worthington, Minnesota.

Gore quit her job at a Dairy Queen and dyed her hair and eyebrows green. They drove through Wyoming, Utah and into Nevada with "Area 51 bound" and "Comin 4 Dem Alien Cheeks" in green paint on their car windows.

"People were taking pictures and laughing the whole way," Gore said.

By noon Friday, they had visited the Little A'Le'Inn in Rachel, the Alien Research Center in Hiko and the Rachel gate to Area 51. By Saturday, they would be in Las Vegas, they said.

"Area 51 Basecamp" in Hiko began featuring music, speakers and movies -- headlined by an electronic dance music DJ who tours the world and attracts packed clubs on the Las Vegas Strip.

Alien Research Center owner George Harris said he expected a crowd of 5,000, but authorities said the audience and nearby campers appeared to number in the hundreds.

No word on any area-restaurant discounts for visitors from Mars or Venus. However, when the "Storm Area 51" event was first announced this summer, fast-food chain Arby's said it would have a presence in the vicinity and offer  a presumably out-of-this world menu.

According to Las Vegas TV station KSNV, Arby's planned to offer a "Redacted on Rye" which is a roasted turkey sandwich and the "E.T. Slider," featuring a crispy chicken tender dipped in Bronco Berry sauce. To wash it down, tourists could buy a "Galaxy Shake." 

Like the Little A'Le'Inn," camping/RV lots in the area were full. Prices rangeed from only $20 for an “RV spot with power and water hookup” to $190 for rooms, which include free Wifi.

“Walk in... Drive in... Fly in... Get to Little A’Le’Inn!!! ET's & Earthlings Welcome Always,” the hotel’s website reads.

“There should be a little something here for all our alien friends. Even those with two or four legs,” the hotel said.

Other nearby hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts were completely sold out as well, with the Sunset View Inn and Alamo Inn booked clear through the weekend.

Meanwhile, law enforcement in the area warned that a large influx of visitors could put an immense strain on emergency personnel, especially considering the extreme desert heat as summer comes to a close.

"We could probably handle it, but it could definitely cause issues. Heaven forbid the number is 5,000 people where you almost double the size of the county," Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee told CNN in August.

"I could see people with a lot of heat-related issues, and with our limited resources up here, it could definitely jeopardize their safety. The number of people could overwhelm our EMS in a hurry," Lee added.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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