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Kecksburg UFO Festival returns for 8th year

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

As the Kecksburg Volunteer Fire Department prepares to host its 8th annual Kecksburg UFO Festival, its members have something to celebrate.

The event was recently named one of the top 40 festivals to attend in the Pittsburgh area by Pittsburgh Magazine.

“It's something we did not expect and were very surprised and happy when we found out about it,” said department President Duane Hutter. “Now we want to make sure we can keep that designation and keep making our festival better.”

In 2005, the department held the inaugural installment of the festival with a theme based on a still-disputed accounting of what happened on Dec. 9, 1965, in tiny farming village in Mt. Pleasant Township.

Many still claim that, on that date, a large, metallic acorn-shaped object supposedly streaked through the region's skies before plummeting into a patch of woods near the town.

Each witness testified that military and police officials restricted all access to the woods where the crash is believed to have occurred, left the scene with the suspected object in tow on a flatbed trailer, and subsequently denied finding anything, creating a mystery that has lasted nearly five decades.

All event proceeds pay for the department's operational and equipment expenses, Hutter said.

“It goes to cover everything, including our new $190,000 truck we just had to purchase, as well as other equipment so we can best service our community,” he said.

Event chairman and safety officer Ron Struble said at least 1,000 people attend the free festival each year, with about 400 to 500 attending the UFO conference.

This year, the fire department has expanded the festival by one evening.

It will be held on the fire company grounds at the intersection of state Route 982 and Clay Pike in Kecksburg from July 26-28.

“The festival has really been growing for us, especially on the UFO side, and we wanted to expand our half-price night in the kitchen, which the people really seem to like,” Struble said

The festival will be open from 6 to 10 p.m. July 26.

In addition to the half-price night in the kitchen, there will be music by disc jockey Music Masters.

On July 27, the festival will run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The annual parade kicks off at 2 p.m., and prizes will be awarded for the best UFO entry, UFO costume, UFO pet costume and UFO motorcycle.

Many other special events are scheduled for that day, including the bucket brigade, bed race, hay bale toss and the Smoke in the Valley Burn Out contest at 7 p.m.

On July 28, the grounds will open at 10 a.m. with the car cruise. The “Out of this World Hot Dog Eating Contest” will be at 1 p.m.

The UFO Conference will be held from 1:30 to 5 p.m.

“There is both a local and national interest in the Kecksburg UFO case. In the nearly 48 years since the Kecksburg incident, the public has developed a great interest in the UFO subject,” said local UFO researcher Stan Gordon.

“The public also wants to learn about other ongoing mysteries, such as encounters with Bigfoot,” he said.

Hundreds of people attend the UFO Conference annually to learn about the latest research and sighting information, Gordon added.

Gordon, a Greensburg resident, is an expert on the 1965 Kecksburg UFO incident and he will speak about it at the free conference.

“I am going to start out the conference with an update on my investigation into the 1965 Kecksburg UFO incident, as well as discuss the reports of UFO's and strange creature sightings that have been reported during the last year, and even in recent weeks around the Pittsburgh area and in Westmoreland County,” he said.

Michael Ranck, an attorney who attended the University of Pittsburgh, was at Kecksburg on the night of the incident.

He will be on hand to discuss his experience of encountering armed soldiers and approaching the tarp-covered object on a flatbed tractor-trailer. Ranck said he is considering a lawsuit to pressure the government to release the recovered object to the public.

Eric Altman, director of the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society will conduct a talk titled “Bigfoot Sightings From the Last Five Years in Pennsylvania.”

John Ventre, Pennsylvania director of the Mutual UFO Network, will conduct a talk titled “UFO's Over Pennsylvania.”

Fred Saluga, a former police officer and UFO investigator, will conduct a talk titled “How a UFO Sighting is Investigated by (MUFON) the Mutual UFO Network.”

In addition, the social hall will be filled with a craft show, jewelry vendors and displays by UFO and Bigfoot researchers and organizations.

The department's UFO Store will be open, as well.

For more details on all festival events, visit or call 724-423-9540 or 724-423-2580.

Linda Harkcom is a freelance writer.

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