HOPKINSVILLE - The crowd at the convention center Saturday morning was mostly Main Street folks -- men in sport coats and ties, and families with children and toys in tow.
Well, except for the bald guy painted green. And the woman who sat with an inflated 3-foot-tall green alien in the chair next to her.
On a raised dais in front of the crowd were more than a dozen panelists -- some of whom were witnesses to one of the most bizarre moments in Hopkinsville history -- the Aug. 21, 1955, alleged landing of aliens on a farm north of this southwestern Kentucky city.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the incident, Hopkinsville hosted "The Little Green Men Festival," a three-day event that concluded yesterday.
The highlight was Saturday's panel discussion -- where historians, police officers who investigated the incident and children of those who said they saw the aliens spoke about what happened that night.
For those unfamiliar with what became known as the "Kelly Green Men" incident, the story goes something like this:
Eight adults and three children had gathered at the farm of Elmer "Lucky" Sutton north of Hopkinsville in a small town called Kelly. Billy Ray Taylor was outside in the early evening and saw a flying silver disc land in an adjacent field.
No one inside the house believed Taylor's story. But about 8 p.m., Sutton's dog began barking at something outside the house.
When Taylor and Sutton looked outside, they said they saw a strange glow moving toward the rear of the house. Soon something appeared -- what witnesses said was a small man 3 or 31/2 feet tall. The creature had a large head and arms that stretched nearly to the ground. It glowed like silver metal.
The men opened fire on the creature but it "did a flip," they later reportedly told friends, and sought refuge in the darkness.
The men returned inside and later another creature appeared at a window. The men shot at the creature but could not tell if it had been hit. Taylor walked outside to investigate and a large, claw-like hand grabbed his head from above -- most likely from the porch roof. Others in the house pulled Taylor from the creature's grasp. The firefight apparently continued until about 11 p.m., when the creatures went away.
There was no telephone at the house, so Sutton and his family drove to Hopkinsville to get police.
Lonnie Lankford, 62, of Christian County was one of three children in the Sutton home that night. All of the adults who were there have since died.
He told the crowd he remembers the shots and the commotion that night, but little else.
Lankford spent most of the evening under a bed -- his mother hid him and the other two children there earlier in the evening, he said.
But there is one thing he is sure about: His mother would never make up a story to get attention or publicity.
"She was a good, honest woman who attended church," Lankford said.
Geraldine Stith, Lucky Sutton's daughter, said her father told her about the alien shoot-out when she was older -- maybe 7 or 8. Stith was born several years after the 1955 incident.
"My father was terrified," Stith said. "Whatever happened that night ... it scared him for the rest of his life."
Saturday's panel was a first.
Although many panel members had been interviewed separately about the incident by science-fiction writers, newspaper reporters and UFO investigators, most of them had never been in the same room at the same time, said Cheryl Cook, executive director of the Hopkinsville-Christian County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Cook came up with the idea of the 50th anniversary festival five years ago when she read an article in the Hopkinsville newspaper, The Kentucky New Era, which mentioned that 2005 was the golden anniversary of the event.
Cook started planning and promoting the event at the very earth-bound Kentucky State Fair last August.
"We got a lot of weird looks," Cook said, laughing.
But Hopkinsville has received a lot of ink thanks to the kitsch-factor of the festival. Cook said she has given more than 30 interviews in the past two weeks.
All that publicity should have added up to a big crowd. But Saturday's panel discussion was only three-quarters full.
"I'm a little disappointed," Cook said of the turnout.
It was an alien-packed weekend. On Friday there was an astronomy seminar and an alien costume contest for kids.
Saturday's panel discussion was followed by several speakers, including Peter Davenport of the National UFO Reporting Center, and a dance.
Yesterday's bus tours to Kelly were almost sold out by Saturday -- even though the old Sutton home has been demolished and there wasn't much to see.
Keith Wilson saw Cook's booth at the state fair last year and decided to come. Wilson, a Kentucky native who lives in Corpus Christi, Texas, admitted that she and her two sisters first decided to come because of the novelty of the Little Green Men Festival.
"But now I'm kind of fascinated," Wilson said. "I mean, why would anyone make something like that up?"
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