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‘Storm Area 51’: Nye County rejects Peacestock51 festival

In the wake of the frenzy caused by the Storm Area 51 Facebook event, which was reportedly intended as a hoax but has now drawn the attention of millions around the world, one Pahrump resident set out to provide a peaceful alternative to attempting to breach the military base with Peacestock51.

The Nye County Commission, however, has decided against the festival proposed for the Amargosa Valley area, denying an application for a festival permit during its most recent meeting, Tuesday, Aug. 20.

David Van Der Beek said he was the creator behind the idea of hosting Peacestock51 and he enlisted the help of another Pahrump resident, Bryan Scott, to bring together the details. Van Der Beek planned to host the festival on Friday, Sept. 20 on two large parcels of land with Amargosa postal addresses, just north of Ranch Road in Crystal.

Van Der Beek and Scott stated they simply wanted to give the thousands of people who were expected to descend on the areas surrounding the Nevada National Security Site, where Area 51 is located, something nonviolent, safe and family-friendly to enjoy.

They explained that they had been working non-stop for days on end in order to secure all the necessary components, leasing the land in Amargosa and contacting companies to provide security, medical services, lighting, grading and gravel for the venue grounds, sanitary facilities and more. In addition, they said they had also secured the assistance of event planning experts and entertainers, noting that they believed this was an opportunity to start something that could become an annual UFO-enthusiast event and a tourist draw for Nye County.

Both made an impassioned plea for approval, reiterating their concern that with or without the Peacestock51 festival, people were still going to flock to the area.

“We didn’t start this movement. We all thought Storm Area 51 was a joke. It’s not,” Van Der Beek told the commission and audience. “We’re not prepared for it and the question I would propose is, what is our plan as a community for handling the people who come?”

Van Der Beek went on to state, “The whole intention of the festival is to remove people from harm’s way… This could be dangerous unless we work together and we take an active leadership role in providing this coming crowd with a place to go that has food, water, garbage cans, potties, something fun and peaceful to do in a confined, highly secure place away from Storm Area 51 …”

Scott added, “We have a potential problem for Nye … Whether we have a place to contain it is the only difference there is between doing it and not doing it.”

However, their entreaties were to no avail.

Some neighbors in the vicinity of the proposed festival were none too pleased with the idea, with several making appearances at the commission meeting on Aug. 20 to make their opposition clear. Dust control, fire risk and the impact on the fragile desert environment were among the reasons they cited for their apprehension.

The public comments made that afternoon seemed to weigh heavily with certain commissioners, including chairman John Koenig and members Donna Cox and Leo Blundo. Both took the time to explain that they felt they were bound to represent their constituents’ position on the festival and therefore, they could not support the idea.

“I have to support the people from the town,” Cox explained of her stance. “I’m sorry. I mean, I like having fun but this sounds like it’s way beyond having fun. I just see a big problem here and I will not support bringing that here to our county.”

Koenig said much the same, stating, “There’re going to be people probably running out of gas, there are going to probably be people getting stuck in the lousy road there. You’ve got a bunch of neighbors here that are really unhappy and personally, I sit here because these people elected me. These people are number one on my list, their safety, their convenience, their welfare. Everything else is secondary.”

Blundo said he himself had approached the item with an open mind but he had decided he too would not be able to give his approval to the festival.

“This is a serious situation. If we have a 10th of a percent show up, that’s a couple of thousand people in Amargosa Valley,” Blundo said, remarking that he also believed so many people would overtax the county’s resources. “After the testimony given here today, I don’t think this festival is going to add to it. I had hopes, I was very optimistic, but I’m just not being sold here on the fact that this event is going to help mitigate some of those instances. I have residents that are upset about this… I just can’t support this.”

Blundo then made the motion to deny the festival permit, which commissioner Donna Cox seconded. The motion to deny passed 3-1 with commissioners Blundo, Koenig and Cox in favor, Lorinda Wichman against and Debra Strickland absent.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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