ROSWELL, N.M. — For folks who truly believe a UFO and its crew of bug-eyed aliens came crashing down here 60 years ago, rest assured: There's evidence you're not alone.
At least 35,000 people have descended on Roswell this weekend for the 2007 Amazing Roswell UFO Festival -- filling every hotel room and nearly doubling the southeastern New Mexico town's population for a few days.
The festival, which began Thursday, is a mixed bag of oddities, some whimsical, some serious-minded: live concerts (one headlined by a band with a computer-generated "alien" drummer), costume contests, a Main Street parade and lectures that ponder such mysteries as body snatchers and "What does NASA really know?"
The festival emerged in the 1990s to commemorate and debate the July 1947 crash of a purported flying saucer, which the government has maintained was a top-secret weather balloon. Those who believe in "the Roswell incident" say the government stubbornly is conspiring to hide the truth about the events of that day and, more broadly, the existence of extraterrestrial life.
Al Dooley, 59, of Seattle said he wasn't sure what happened back then but had gone to the festival learn more.
"I didn't come for the carnival atmosphere. I came to listen to the speakers," Dooley said. "I've always had an interest in UFOs. I've read about them all my life."
Michael, who plays guitar in the rock band Element 115 and doesn't use his last name, said he didn't merely believe the crash occurred.
"I \o7know\f7 it," he said, as he handed out a business card. He said he hoped Element 115 would one day be the house band for a theme park being debated here -- featuring amusement rides, a concert hall and a 300-room hotel that would look like a flying saucer.
"I want to help them with that," he said. "I see millions and millions of dollars in this place. They just need to know how to market it right."
The city's convention center was swarming with vendors hawking trinkets and dolls, photo ops with sexy costumed aliens, psychic readings and a kit to test whether your neighbor or boss is from outer space. Many peddled their books, DVDs or artwork of all things otherworldly.
Chase Masterson, a singer and actress, was signing autographs for fans who remembered her role as Leeta on several episodes of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."
"I didn't give it a lot of thought during the days I was on the show," she said, speaking of UFO theories and alien life. "I am having a very interesting time exploring the theories that are set forth here.... Some are completely outrageous, but some are very intriguing."