story by Brady Tackett, special to The City Wire
EUREKA SPRINGS — The 25th annual Ozark UFO Conference touches down in Eureka Springs this weekend (April 13-15), featuring 10 speakers in a three-day span. Conference planners expect more than 500 to attend.
“I think there’s an uptick in the interest of ufology,” said Lee Clinton, conference co-chairman. “It’s a very loyal following. The atmosphere is almost like a homecoming or family reunion.”
The conference features an eclectic roster of cosmologists, engineers and hypnotists delivering lectures with such titles as “Deciphering Abductions” and “The E.T. Agenda: Why don’t they land on the White House lawn?”
“I don’t like to use the word ‘believe’ and ‘UFO’ in the same sentence,” Clinton said. “I think you either accept the fact that we are not alone in the universe or you don’t.”
Arkansas might not be ripe for sightings, but apparently some of its neighbors are. In an article published late last year in Live Science, Texas and Missouri are among the top 10 states where the most UFO sightings have been reported. The information comes from the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) in Seattle.
Clinton, who has been a part of the conference almost since its inception in 1987, said there has been a resurgence in UFO interest in recent years.
“In the heyday of UFO conferences — late ‘80s, early ‘90s — we had around 600 people on a regular basis. Keep in mind you didn’t have the Internet,” Clinton said.
For ufologists, the Internet is a wondrous network of eyewitness accounts and extraterrestrial news.
“If there’s a sighting in Des Moines, 10 million people can know about it in 10 minutes, Clinton said. “In the old days, you had to wait for a newspaper to write a story about it, if they would.”
Eureka Springs, “where the misfits fit,” as an old saying goes, is the festival’s one and only host.
“Historically, Eureka Springs is noted for its healing, free-flowing springs. It’s a different town,” he said. “They’re independent thinkers and they do things their way.”
Clinton took the reins of the conference in 2010, after respected ufologist Lou Farish stepped down. Farish, a native of Plumerville, Ark., died from cancer in January. The conference this year will open with a commemorative ceremony in his honor.
Farish’s driving aim for the conference was to educate, not to make money, Clinton said.
“He kept the ticket price ... to, like, $30 for the weekend. I don’t see how in the world he even covered his conference costs,” Clinton said. “We’ve had to raise prices just to at least break even.”
The $90 pass includes access to lectures Friday through Sunday (April 13-15) and exclusive time with conference speakers and other ufology experts.
“The speakers are very good at making themselves available throughout the weekend,” Clinton said. “We’ll have beer and wine, and you’ll go in the back room and the speakers will be sitting around a table talking about stories they don’t even want to talk about publicly.”