Thursday, July 22, 2010

Change Needed in Roswell

By Dennis Balthaser

Dennis Balthaser     Another Roswell UFO Festival is now in the history books, and in spite of a few “hiccups” along the way in preparation for the 2010 annual event, it was in my opinion a very successful event. During the 4-day event, the attendance on Saturday at the Roswell Convention and Visitors Center was as big as any I have attended.

The newly elected Mayor and one of the recently elected city councilmen made some comments that were picked up by the National media a few weeks before this years Festival was scheduled, that were detrimental to the city committee’s planning, and caused several entertainers and vendors to cancel. I agree with the Mayor that the cost of planning and operating such an event should be reviewed, however the return on such an investment to the benefit of Roswell appears to far outweigh the cost. The Festival affects everyone involved from the local t-shirt producer to American Airlines who are all involved, and looking to benefit from the Festival.

UFO Symposium Coordinator, City Festival Adviser and UFO researcher Peter Robbins gave an excellent presentation to the Mayor and city council at their monthly meeting July 8, emphasizing the importance of the city continuing to finance the annual festival. The Mayor thanked Peter, and agreed that the city of Roswell would continue to support the annual event, and anticipated that 2011 would be bigger than this year. I’m pleased that the Mayor and certain councilmen may have seen the benefits of continuing to support the Festival.

As it has been for the past few years, there are three conferences going on in Roswell during the annual event each July.

Guy Malone has one that examines the Roswell Incident from a theological perspective, assuming it was not an “ET” related incident. I personally welcome consideration of all possibilities in our combined effort to get the truth after 63 years, (although I may not agree with all.)

The UFO Museum, under the leadership of its current Director Julie Shuster, has an annual conference, which started back in the early 1990’s, when a few gentlemen in Roswell, and years before Shuster became involved as the Director, decided to organize an event. It grew in popularity each year with the 50th anniversary in 1997 possibly being the largest attended to date, nearly doubling the population of Roswell for a few days. When Shuster took over the Directorship of the Museum, problems began between her and several researchers and city personnel, resulting in a decline in attendance for the annual event.

Although the Museum received its share of the lodger’s tax in previous years from the city, the relationship between her and the city grew more hostile with each passing year. To the credit of the Museum (not it’s Director), the Museum does attract 150,000 people to Roswell each year, a considerable boost to the economy through merchants, t-shirt shops, restaurants, hotels and motels.

Realizing that the Roswell Festival was no longer reaching out to expand under the guidance of the Museum Director, and in fact declining in popularity, the former Mayor Sam LaGrone, stepped up and assembled a committee to organize a festival under the city of Roswell banner. On numerous occasions while I was on the city committee a few years ago, the city reached out to the Museum Director to join in with the city for the annual event. Shuster refused that offer time and time again, resulting in separate festivals the past few years, which is confusing to those attending each year, and has drawn a line in the sand between the city and the Museum Director.

Since becoming the Director of the Museum, Shuster has acquired a hand-selected board, utilized several CPAs, and started charging an admission to the museum, which the original founders of the Museum, (Walter Haut, Glenn Dennis and Max Littell), had strongly emphasized would never happen. More damaging in my opinion is the “control” she now attempts to place on speakers who participate in her annual event. They are instructed to NOT ATTEND any functions the city Festival has at the Convention and Visitors center because they are under contract to her for the duration of their stay in Roswell. Most of us researchers know each other and enjoy the infrequent times that we can get together during the festival, however this is no longer possible.

The problems caused by the Museum Director are much too numerous to list in this article, however I believe she hit a new low this past week. Last year the city Festival Committee created a Roswell UFO Hall of Fame induction ceremony to honor people to be drawn from three different categories: those involved in the incident itself, researchers, authors, investigators and lecturers, and contributors from the film, TV and documentary fields. The first inductee last year was Major Jesse Marcel, (the Intelligence officer of the 509th bomb wing stationed in Roswell in 1947.) Major Marcel’s award was graciously accepted by non other than Major Marcel’s son Jesse Marcel Jr., who himself became involved as a young boy, when his father brought debris by the house from the crash site, before returning to the base.

This year the city nominating committee selected three individuals to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Stanton Friedman, the original civilian Roswell Incident researcher, known world wide for his investigations, Paul Davids, movie producer of the 1994 feature film Roswell, and by unanimous selection by the committee, Walter Haut, the Base Public Relations Officer who wrote the July 8, 1947 newspaper article that we had captured a Flying Saucer. Only two inductees were installed in the Hall of fame however, because when the UFO Museum Director Julie Shuster, (who is Walter Haut’s daughter) was asked to accept the award on behalf of her father she refused to participate. Not only was that disrespectful of her father and the Roswell Incident, but also again indicated her unwillingness to work with anyone not under her domination, and only added more animosity to an already bad situation.

In an article in the Roswell Daily Record newspaper Sunday July 11th, Shuster said, “Peter Robbins had contacted her sister about nominating their Dad (Walter Haut) into the city Hall of Fame, and if you were inducting someone into the Hall of Fame, you’d think you’d ask their family.” Is a sister not family?

Walter Haut will eventually be inducted into the Roswell Hall of Fame as he well should be, with or without the current Museum Directors approval.

It’s time for a change at the Museum, and the continued support of her hand-selected Board of Directors that appear to ignore the ill will she creates within the community, with researchers and the media. Visitors to Roswell are not aware of these problems and don’t need to be, but those that are aware need to look at making changes for the betterment of the annual Festival, and what locals have to deal with throughout the year.

The Roswell Festival is an important part of the community and local businesses, and must start being handled so all will benefit. The UFO Museum is also an important part of the community, and vitally needed for those interested in the subject of Ufology, but the attitude of the museum’s leadership is a hindrance to that being accomplished.

Vendors and researchers I talked to at the Visitors and Convention Center after the event, indicated this was one of the best years they have had participating in the city Festival, and my congratulations to Festival Director Renee’ Roach, Peter Robbins, the members of the City’s UFO Festival Committee and to all of the volunteers for a job well done.

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