UFO festival and conference now in its 7th year

EDINBURG – While working with a lumber crew in 1975, within a Northern Arizona forest, Travis Walton and his six co-workers encountered a UFO.

According to Walton, he was blasted by a beam of light and no trace of him was found for five days. To this day Walton claims he was on board the strange spacecraft.

Walton will be among the featured speakers at the 7th Annual Out of This World UFO Festival & Conference April 13 and 14. The two-day event will be held at the Edinburg City Hall Courtyard April 13 and at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance on April 14.

Friday the event will be free to the public as UFOs and aliens will take over the city hall courtyard. A costume contest will take place for children and adults. There will be vendors and food stations with items for sale as well as live music.

Saturday will be a ticketed event where Walton along with British UFO expert Nick Pope, UFO Researcher Stephen Bassett and Black Vault Creator John Greenwald will give presentations on UFOs.

Tickets for the event Saturday are on sale now for $30 plus fees. The event will be from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Since its first year the festival has grown in popularity for Edinburg Arts and has become the No. 3 festival in the world on Listverse. An online trade publication specializing in the unusual or lesser-known trivia.

 

INSPIRATION

The UFO festival in Edinburg was inspired by the 1966 UFO incident north of town where eight witnesses working for a company from North Texas were digging a gravel pit became greatly agitated.

That night J.R. Milo Ponce, a deputy with the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department was dispatched to the scene alongside Farm to Market Highway 490 near Laguna Seca Road.

According to Ponce's son Joe, when his father received a phone call from the dispatcher George Rapp, he asked if it was serious or a prank.

Rapp told him that the men seen along Highway 490 appeared to be frightened about something they had seen, and they also said they needed help putting out a fire.

“My father got dressed, got in his vehicle, and responded to the call,” Ponce said.

The site in question is a ranch located approximately four miles west of Highway 281, owned at the time by Samuel Gonzalez, now deceased, and now owned by Mary Moya. The charred and burned area was about one quarter mile into the ranch next to some very large gravel pits.

The pits were being dug out by a crew of eight men from north Texas. The men, who were all “Anglo” and whose identities are not known, were “roughneck” types. All of them told the same story of that eerie night. One of the men had been so frightened that he urinated in his pants.

The men were later taken to the sheriff’s office, where they were interviewed and then allowed to spend the night. They told sheriff’s deputies that they would never return to the site of the incident, and they reportedly left town the next day, happy to escape with their lives.

“Although I did not witness this incident, I heard several different people give the same details about it at separate times,” Joe said. “There was a police report filed, but I don’t know if it would still be around. I will tell the story as I heard it from my father.”

The workers told deputies of having seen bright lights in the sky and of hearing a loud humming or throbbing sound. They also experienced sudden, strong winds on an otherwise calm night, and they saw flames shoot down out of the sky, presumably from one of the UFOs that had been previously seen hovering in the area. The beam of fire set ablaze all the surrounding area, including their vehicles and their mobile home.

A local resident, known as “Manito,” who lived near the caliche pit, reported seeing a “cigar-shaped object” that hovered over the field that night. Manito had seen this and other bright lights hovering over the surrounding fields prior to the night of this incident. The gravel pit workers themselves stated that they had seen strange lights hovering around the area on other occasions, prior to the night of the fire. Spanish-speaking people who lived near the area called these eerie night lights “La Luz del Llano,” which in English means “the light in the fields.” According to Joe Ponce, this area has been known for years as the site of strange phenomena.

Firefighters eventually arrived at the scene of the fire, but by the time they got there, the flames had mostly died out. Ponce’s dad said that, on the following morning, he and another deputy returned to the scene and found everything, including the crew’s sleeping quarters, destroyed by fire. 

Among what was damaged or destroyed by the fire was: a 12’ x 60’ mobile home that the crew were using as sleeping quarters, a couple of pick-up trucks, a bobtail truck, and an excavating machine. “It was all charred,” Joe Ponce remembers, “All that stuff had been burned.”

Years later when Joe returned from the Army in 1972, he visited the area with his father.

“He pointed out the location and you could still see an odd shape area where nothing would grow,” he said. “The sides of the pit appeared to have been burned all the way to the top 25-30 feet high.”

Joe Ponce says that Sheriff E. E. Vickers told his dad that he had been approached by two men dressed in military uniforms asking to see the report about the incident. Vickers, a resident of Donna, Texas, was the county sheriff from 1955 to 1969. Apparently, Vickers thought the men might have come from Moore Air Base, which is located about six miles southwest of the site where the incident happened, but the base had been closed by the Air Force in 1961 and was no longer a military institution at the time of the incident.

“No more was ever said of the incident and my father never spoke about it anymore,” Ponce says.

His father later became captain of the Highway Patrol and then ran for office and was elected county commissioner for three terms. He is still remember for his many years of service, and the county honored him by naming a park after his retirement and death. The park, called J. R. “Milo” Ponce Memorial Park, is located 8 miles east on Highway 2812, in the Hargill area.