Alien invasion: How a tiny town in the Nevada desert is preparing for crowds to ‘Storm Area 51’

The event started as a joke and was recently moved to Las Vegas, but people are still expected to show up in Alamo this Friday

Photo: Amanda Ulrich

About 100 miles north of Las Vegas, Route 93 passes through a dusty little town in the middle of the Nevada desert. The unincorporated community of Alamo, an assemblage of gas stations and small houses along the highway, has one major claim to fame: its proximity to Area 51, the classified Air Force facility that’s been the epicenter of UFO conspiracy theories for decades.

The surrounding area is, unsurprisingly, home to all things alien. There’s a store that almost exclusively sells E.T. jerky and a souvenir shop called the Alien Research Center (stocked with UFO-themed shot glasses and an entire wall of Area 51 magnets). An infamous Extraterrestrial Highway sign watches over the road. On the outskirts of Alamo, a giant tableau of alien life is painted on concrete slabs and set up near the base of the mountains. 

Until recently, Alamo and other isolated, neighboring towns in Lincoln County mainly kept to themselves. Visitors are scarce out in the desert—they’re usually long-haul truck drivers on their way to Vegas or the occasional Area 51 buff. 

But this summer, national interest in the area exploded. A Facebook event, scheduled for September 20 and dubbed “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” promised to flood the county with conspiracy theorists from around the nation, hoping to catch a glimpse of what secrets are kept inside the heavily guarded military base. 

T-shirts at the Alien Research Center.
T-shirts at the Alien Research Center. | Photo: Amanda Ulrich

“We will all meet up in rural Nevada and coordinate our parties,” event creator Matty Roberts wrote on Facebook. “Let’s see them aliens.”

Sunset View Inn

Although the event is scheduled for this Friday, locals still aren’t sure if—or how many—people will actually show up. AlienStock, a musical component to the festivities, announced it was moving to a venue in downtown Vegas just a few days ago. Roberts and his team said they were hoping to avoid a “Fyre Fest 2.0.”

“We foresee a possible humanitarian disaster in the works, and we can’t participate in any capacity at this point,” the AlienStock website warns. 

The original Storm Area 51 event has spawned copycats, which also have the potential to draw huge crowds. Another alien-themed event, “Storm Area 51 Basecamp,” is planned for Hiko, just a few miles up the road from Alamo. 

Pamela Broxson, the general manager of one of the only motels in Alamo, has mixed feelings about the event. On one hand, it’s great for business—her family-run motel, the Sunset View Inn, is booked solid for days both before and after the event. 

“We got filled up before we even knew what hit us,” Broxson says, sitting outside the Sunset View Inn in a lawn chair. “At first we figured [the bookings were] our ‘snowbirds,’ because it’s about the time everybody from Washington, Idaho, and Canada goes south.”

The reservations are welcome, but Alamo is a small town with very limited supplies. Broxson and the rest of her family are concerned that if thousands of people arrive, they could deplete their stock of groceries, gas, and even cash in ATM machines. 

“We’re worried about everything getting wiped out,” says Broxson’s daughter, Lindsey, who helps run the motel. “Because there are about 1,400 [residents] in the valley, unless you go to Vegas, here’s the only place you can get anything.” 

Some attendees reportedly plan to camp outside the Alien Research Center shop down the road from Alamo, and residents warn about rattlesnakes, scorpions, and dangerously hot temperatures. 

“There is nothing out here,” adds Lindsey’s husband, Sean. “And you can get burned and hospitalized if you’re not careful.”

Secrets within Area 51

Visitors hoping to finally learn the innermost secrets of Area 51 on Friday—or get anywhere close to the facility—will be sorely disappointed. The base, officially named Groom Lake or Homey Airport, is located within the Nevada Test and Training Range, which covers more than 2.9 million acres of the state. Area 51’s perimeter is patrolled by armed guards and surrounded by patches of barbed wire and surveillance cameras.

Area 51’s perimeter is patrolled by armed guards and surrounded by patches of barbed wire and surveillance cameras.
Area 51’s perimeter is patrolled by armed guards and surrounded by patches of barbed wire and surveillance cameras. | Photo: Amanda Ulrich

Even getting close to the highly secure edge of Area 51 is a difficult task. About 15 miles down the highway from the Alien Research Center, an unpaved road to the left cuts straight through the desert and into the mountains. The road stretches on for so long that, halfway down it, the landscape changes from barren desert to a wide expanse of gnarled Joshua trees. Eventually, the road dead-ends unceremoniously at a few rolls of barbed wire and signs that read: “Warning, U.S. Air Force Installation. It is unlawful to enter this area without permission of the Installation Commander.” Trespassing could lead to a $1,000 fine, six months in prison, “or both,” according to the signs.  

While Area 51 may not contain extraterrestrial life, the site does have a verified history of hosting classified government projects. The first U-2 spy plane was tested at the facility in the 1950s. The Central Intelligence Agency only released substantive details about the base in 2013, after receiving a Freedom of Information Request. Author Annie Jacobsen, who interviewed more than 70 people for a book about Area 51, has called it “the birthplace of overhead espionage” for the CIA. 

A giant tableau of alien life is painted on concrete slabs and set up near the base of the mountains.
A giant tableau of alien life is painted on concrete slabs near the base of the mountains. | Photo: Amanda Ulrich

So the idea that the top-secret base still possesses hidden mysteries—alien or otherwise—is an intoxicating thought, even for those who live and work in Alamo. Broxson’s family admits they’ve seen lights hover over the dark hills and heard drones buzzing late at night. 

“Who knows what it is,” Broxson says. “But we’ve definitely seen lights.”

Sean, Broxson’s son-in-law, is more candid. If UFOs do ever emerge over the mountains from Area 51 and invade the Sunset View Inn, he’ll be ready.  

“I’d be like: ‘Come on, take me,’” Sean says, laughing.