Marion has the WNC Bigfoot Festival but now Spruce Pine will have its first alien expo.
On Friday and Saturday, the first ever Spruce Pine Alien Conference and Expo (SPACE) will beam down in downtown Spruce Pine. This multi-dimensional event is free to anyone interested in the unknown and is expected to bring 10,000 visitors from around the United States. The featured speaker will be Mike Bara from the History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens” show, according to a news release.
Bara is a New York Times bestselling author, lecturer and TV personality whose books have sold more than 70,000 copies worldwide. He has written a series of books about ancient aliens and their visits to Earth and the Moon. He has made numerous public appearances lecturing on the subjects of space science, NASA, physics, UFOs and the link between science and spirit, and has been a featured guest on radio programs like “Coast to Coast AM” with George Noory, according to the web site for SPACE.
Also, there will be a number of panel discussions by local authors, researchers and alien experts. During the day, residents and visitors will be allowed an “open mike” to tell their stories about close encounters with unidentified flying objects and strange events.
Events will run from 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday with include free concerts and trips to the Dark Sky Observatory at Mayland Community College. Events will run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday.
For those that love to play the part, there will be a “My Favorite Martian” costume contest for the young and young at heart plus the exciting “E.T.” Children’s Bike Race. Included in the downtown area will be food vendors, comic and book authors and a spacious beer garden, according to the news release.
SPACE will feature a “Beam Me Up to the Bar” pub crawl along with cosplay or an alien costume contest for children and adults. You can come as a character from “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” the Marvel universe or some other alien. There will also be the “Area 51” Inflatable kids park, according to the web site for the event.
Jimmy Hinshaw is the creator and director of SPACE and is a native of Spruce Pine.
“When I moved back to Spruce Pine, I noticed the economic decline of the community,” said Hinshaw to The McDowell News. “I tried to find ways to stimulate the economy.”
Hinshaw heard about the highly successful WNC Bigfoot Festival and noticed the huge crowds that came to Marion’s downtown. He said the mayor estimated 25,000 people came here while the vendors had an estimate of 40,000. Judging from those two estimates, he guessed it was probably 30,000 to 35,000 that filled the streets of Marion for that one-day event.
Marion’s WNC Bigfoot Festival also garnered national attention with both CNN and National Public Radio publishing stories about it.
As early as February, the Bigfoot Festival for 2019 was already maxed out for the number of vendors. A big draw for this year’s festival will be a special appearance by Cliff Barackman of the popular TV show “Finding Bigfoot.”
Based on this huge success, Hinshaw figured a similar festival would be just the thing to help Spruce Pine. February was also when he started working on his event.
“I began to research what would be good for Spruce Pine,” he said.
During his research, he learned that Mitchell County experienced more UFO sightings than any other county in North Carolina. Another outer space connection is the fact that the minerals from Spruce Pine provided the key materials for telescopes and the space shuttle. The massive telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California was made with raw materials from Spruce Pine. Likewise, the Hubble Space Telescope incorporates the quartz mined from Mitchell County.
Hinshaw realized that a festival or conference centered around UFOs, extraterrestrials and outer space would be a good fit for Spruce Pine and Mitchell County. He talked with town leaders and businesses and got their support for the idea.
SPACE will be a two-day event with longer hours and two nights of outdoor concerts featuring “all high-energy rock ‘n’ roll.”
“If you have another day, more money will be spent,” he said. “You have to have something to keep them here.”
SPACE will probably have an impact on Marion and McDowell County since the crowds of people coming to this area will need a place to stay. Hinshaw said those folks will likely stay at our hotels, motels and campgrounds because those in Mitchell can’t accommodate them all. Therefore, it will be a win for both communities.
“It’s going to impact you guys,” he said to The McDowell News. “Spruce Pine does well. Marion does well.”
Hinshaw added he’s received a lot of support from the businesses along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The hotels, restaurants and shops in Little Switzerland will surely benefit from it too.
Unlike other street festivals, Hinshaw thinks both his SPACE event and the WNC Bigfoot Festival are different and more exciting because they are about having an experience. Typically, street festivals tend to have the same type of vendors and the same kind of music and food. But both SPACE and the Bigfoot festival take it to another level, he added.
“It’s an experience,” he said. “If you come dressed up as an alien, you are part of the experience. Having an experience is really important.”
Most of all, Hinshaw wants to share his love of the mountains in McDowell and Mitchell with people from everywhere.
“Our mountain region is a really special place whether it is Bigfoot, UFOs or ghosts,” he said. “Our mountains are so beautiful. I want to share them with the world and everyone in the galaxy.”