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UFO Days celebrates 40th anniversary

One highlight of the 40th annual UFO Days will be a tour of UFO sighting locations around the area. The festival runs July 27-29. File photo

The extraterrestrial will be on display for the 40th straight year when UFO Days hits the streets of Elmwood July 27-29.

The summer festival began in 1978, only a few years after multiple reports of UFO sightings occurred around the area. This earned Elmwood the title of "UFO Capital of Wisconsin," which it will look to capitalize on in this year's celebration.

For the first time, bus tours will be offered for free to bring attendees to three well-known spots where UFO sightings were reported in the 1970s. These include Kraemer's Quarry, which is where the most famous sighting from Elmwood police officer George Wheeler occurred. Additional stops will be at the Maple Springs Farm and at an intersection on County Road S, which is the only stop that has a sign that marks the multiple UFO sightings.

Speakers will also be on hand on Saturday to inform attendees about the rich history of UFO sightings in the area. Bill Johnson, a retired UW-Stout professor, will present "UFOs and Elmwood--A Legacy" at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., and Jerry Ayres will lead "Small Town Supernatural" at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Both presentations will be in the Elmwood Auditorium and will be free to the public. Johnson spent time investigating these claims and conducting interviews in the 1970s.

"He talks about what happened, where it happened and who it happened to," Elmwood Area Community Club Vice President Missy Roatch said. "There were a lot more sightings and things that he investigated in our area than I was even aware of. So that's really interesting."

With it being the 40th anniversary, Roatch said it's important to keep alive the history of these occurrences, which began around 1973 until the festival started in 1978.

"I think we decided to do those kinds of things because if you think about it, right now, anyone under 40 doesn't really remember those things," Roatch said. "They've heard about it, but either they weren't even here yet or weren't old enough to understand what happened. So it's interesting for those people to now go to these talks and find out what happened here; it's basically why we do UFO days."

Besides the focus on Elmwood's UFO history, they will be inviting 40 years of royalty to this year's festivities, including the first-ever "Miss Elmwood" from 1978. Sheryl Fuhrman will travel from Bloomington, Illinois for the event.

The paper plate drop is a festival favorite that will occur on Friday at 6:30 p.m. over Main Street. Grand Marshal Jake Sailer, who is a licensed pilot, will fly a plane over Main Street and drop 3,000 plates with coupons for local businesses on them.

"People scramble like there's a million dollars written on every one of them," Roatch said.

The "TC Cats" will head up the Friday night entertainment with their 50s/60s music for a street dance. The group has played in the area multiple times, and Roatch said they "have a pretty big following."

Saturday is the busiest day of the festival, with a broad spectrum of events for all ages. The 15th annual UFO Days Car Show in Butternut Park starts at 8 a.m., with a classic car cruise following at 12:30 p.m. The inaugural cake decorating contest will take place on Saturday afternoon, with a silent auction following that will donate all proceeds to the local food pantry.

A new craft and vendor show will begin at 9 a.m., with about 30 different vendors lining on Main Street. The Elmwood Expos will also host a baseball game at 1 p.m. on Saturday at their newly-built Sportsman's Field at the Elmwood Rod & Gun Club.

Event organizers Roatch and Amy Bechel are especially excited for their newest event on Friday and Saturday, the chicken poop raffle. It will be headed up by Village President Bill Stewart, who will be selling squares for $2 a piece that people can bet on for which of the 24 spaces a chicken will poop on.

"People keep asking me what we will do with the chickens after the raffle," Bechel said. "No chickens will be harmed in the chicken poop raffle."

Roatch first saw the event at Alfalfa Fest, and said it was one of the funniest things and that everyone was laughing around the event.

The parade will be the main attraction on Sunday to close out the 40th UFO Days. For the thousands of attendees that come to UFO Days, they may not realize that the major lifting for putting the event together is maintained by a very small group of people.

"There's about six of us that put on UFO Days," Roatch said. "There's a lot of people that do their one thing ... but we're spread pretty thin. If we had just a few more volunteers, we wouldn't have to work nearly as hard as we do."

UFO Days is the biggest fundraiser of the year, which allows the community club to put on events for all ages over the course of the year.

"We aren't huge and we can't do a lot of things that a lot of other big communities do," Roatch said. "But the community club does things in town throughout the year that the village doesn't or couldn't do."

For more information on UFO Days events, look at UFO-Days-Elmwood-WI on Facebook.

Zach Dwyer

Zach Dwyer is a senior journalism student at UW-River Falls. He is an intern reporter for RiverTown Multimedia during the summer of 2018 covering features and sports. He was previously a news intern in the summer of 2017 for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. 

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