|The Brown Mountain Lights shine on.|
In a remote area of western North Carolina stands Brown Mountain, site of the Brown Mountain Lights. These mysterious glowing blue-white lights, first seen hovering or speeding over the hulking mountain by the Cherokee in times past, have contributed to North Carolina’s reputation as a target of UFO investigation for decades.
So it’s only fitting that now, just over the ridge from Brown Mountain in neighboring Mitchell County NC, the first annual Spruce Pine Alien Conference and EXPO (S.P.A.C.E.) is planned for June 14 and 15. The two-day fun-filled event schedule features an alien costume contest, panel discussions, night-time “dark sky” tours, decorated bike and river raft races, live music, dozens of vendors, a beer garden, a stage for folks to share their “alien encounter” stories and appearances by Mike Bara of the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens series. I’m an SF con veteran and I’m way excited by this line-up!
Of course, I may be too busy to enjoy much of S.P.A.C.E.’s offerings. I’ll be signing books at my own vendor booth on the main drag (the town has closed Locust Avenue to vehicular traffic for the event). I’ll also be one of several “experts” on a speakers’ panel discussing “Aliens Among Us.” Squeee!
|Spruce Pine Reimagined for S.P.A.C.E.|
And, dear readers, the organizers are expecting 10,000 visitors for this thing! If they get even half that number, it will be more than twice the crowd that usually attends Shore Leave or RWA Nationals. Wowzer!
The little town of Spruce Pine, population 2175 at the last census, is probably not prepared for this influx, but no one can fault the conference organizers for their initiative in finding a way to capitalize on the local UFO connection. The outer space tie-in includes not just Brown Mountain. Mitchell County provides most of the quartz used in telescopes and microchips in the U.S. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) designated the Mayland Earth to Sky Park and Observatory outside Spruce Pine as the first IDA-certified Star Park in the southeastern United States.
With all this excitement it’s hard to know how to prepare for S.P.A.C.E. Our own town of Marshall has grown the June 8 Mermaid Parade and Festival from a wildly creative, but small, gathering of sea princesses and pirates to a day-long extravaganza of seafood contests, splash-y fun, arts and crafts, and live music, as well as the climactic parade in just four short years. Folks come from the big city of Asheville and surrounding counties to spend the day (and their tourist dollars), turning our sleepy little town into a celebratory crazy place.
A festival dedicated to aliens has the potential to bring in folks from all over the country—if the organizers have done their promo jobs right. That’s a little scary for me, much less for the residents of Spruce Pine. But it can also be a heckuva lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to my first trip to S.P.A.C.E. Wish me bon voyage!