Old Fashion Days & UFO Festival is July 24-26 in Mt. Pleasant Township
The Kecksburg Volunteer Fire Department has two things to celebrate this year.
It is the 10th year of the department's annual Kecksburg Old Fashion Days & UFO Festival, which will take place July 24-26 at the fire company's grounds located at the intersection of Claypike and Route 982 in Mt. Pleasant Township.
In addition, this year marks a half-century since what experts internationally regard as “the Kecksburg Incident,” and the mystery still lingers.
“This local UFO incident that took place nearly 50 years ago, still remains unresolved. It is a UFO incident that has drawn the interest of not only the local community, but from people all over the world,” said Stan Gordon, a Greensburg resident and author and researcher of unidentified flying objects.
“Even in recent years, I continue to receive new leads on the case. There were multitudes of local and area residents who were involved in various aspects of this event,” he said.
Mysterious object is the stuff of legend
Gordon is considered the foremost local expert on the incident, which purportedly took place in late afternoon Dec. 9, 1965.
Several witnesses reported seeing a mysterious object fall from the sky into a wooded area near Kecksburg, he said.
By that night, hundreds of people, including members of the media, descended on the village in Mt. Pleasant Township, Gordon said.
Many of them reported seeing U.S. military vehicles and personnel remove something from the site, he added.
Event to welcome incident witnesses
For the first time, several of the incident's witnesses will be in attendance at a conference dedicated to reflecting on the happening.
A UFO Conference will take place at 1:30 p.m. July 26 in the department's emergency medical services building.
“Many of the people who witnessed what happened that night have passed away. We are fortunate there are some still with us,” said Ron Struble, the department's event chairman.
“We don't know exactly how many people will show up but we are pretty sure to have 10 to 12 witnesses coming in,” he said.
Gordon said many of the witnesses are now elderly and some are not in good health or live locally. But several hope they will be able to attend.
“Some of the witnesses expected to attend either saw the object in the sky, saw the object on the ground, observed or interacted with the military. Others were associated with the news media such as radio station personnel or news reporters,” Gordon said.
The witnesses will participate in a discussion of their experiences and a question-and-answer session.
“The 50th anniversary of this UFO incident is particularly special for those people who were involved with the incident in 1965,” Gordon said.
Throughout the decades, many of those people faced much ridicule for testifying to what they claimed to have seen, he said.
“Others only shared their personal accounts with friends and neighbors,” Gordon said.
Many of those Gordon interviewed were children or teenagers at the time and later, because of their professional positions, asked to remain anonymous, he said.
“Many witnesses after so many years are now willing to share their accounts publicly,” Gordon said. “This is the opportunity for some of those involved to meet with other witnesses, most for the first time, and to share their personal accounts from so many years ago. They are part of the history of this incident.”
Experts' displays to await attendees
Gordon will present an illustrated lecture discussing his 50 years of investigation of the case, and he will screen excerpts from his award-winning video documentary, “Kecksburg: The Untold Story,” which focuses on interviews with area witnesses, he said.
He will also update attendees on more recent reported UFO sightings, purported Bigfoot encounters and other happenings reported from around the area, he said.
Visitors will also encounter displays prepared by John Ventre, director of the Pennsylvania Mutual UFO Network; Fred Saluga, director of the West Virginia Mutual UFO Network; Jim Brown of jimsdestinations.com, a website devoted in part to paranormal studies; Brian and Terrie Seech of the Center for Cryptozoological Studies; Dave Dragosin, associate director of the Western Pennsylvania branch of the PA Bigfoot Society; Ryan Cavalline and Dave Rupert of The Legend Hunters; paranormal site investigators Cheryl Alsippi and Darlene Koedel; and Diane and Jim Trick of the Goosebumps Paranormal Society.
Festival is free to attend
The free, family-friendly event begins with a “Half-Price Food Night,” from 6-11 p.m. July 24.
On July 25, the festival will be open from noon to 11 p.m.
The parade will starts at 2 p.m. on that date, to be followed by an awards ceremony for the best UFO costume and UFO float. Fireworks will light up the sky at 10 p.m.
“The parade route is even longer this year,” Struble said. “It's about 3⁄4-mile long, and we have new trophies this year that the firemen are making themselves.”
There will be a children's activities area, as well, including a tent and a new bounce ride, he said.
In addition, new UFO cutouts prepared by Mt. Pleasant Area students for photo-seeking visitors will be placed at locations throughout the festival grounds, Struble said.
On July 26, activities will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring the “UFO Hot Dog Eating Competition” at 1 p.m. prior to the conference.
There will also be entertainment throughout the weekend, craft shows and food venders.
“We have 27 crafters outside, and the hall is booked full inside with 24 vendors,” Struble said.
In addition to celebrating the anniversaries, department president Duane Hutter said the event is the organization's main fundraiser.
“It means a lot to the fire department, because it's how we (maintain) our equipment and our buildings,” he said. “The money we raise is well used, and every dime goes to the fire department.”
Linda Harkcom is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.