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Idea to 'storm Area 51' seems like 'a very Bakersfield thing,' creator says

In this July 22, 2019 photo, Terris Williams, reflected in a mirror, visits an entrance to the Nevada Test and Training Range near Area 51 outside of Rachel, Nev. The U.S. Air Force has warned people against participating in an internet joke suggesting a large crowd of people "storm Area 51," the top-secret Cold War test site in the Nevada desert.

JOHN LOCHER/AP

By SAM MORGEN | The Bakersfield Californian | Published: July 27, 2019

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — The idea to “storm Area 51” could only have originated in Bakersfield (or maybe Florida), according to the Bakersfield native who came up with the idea and spread it to millions of people online.

“It seems like a very Bakersfield thing to come out of here,” said Matty Roberts, the Bakersfield College petroleum engineering student who lately has a claim of being Bakersfield’s most famous resident. “I love this city. There’s lots of things to do here, cool places to see.”

What started out as a joke has taken on a life of its own, beaming up Roberts to the realms of internet celebrity usually reserved for yodeling kids at Walmart and other viral creations.

Roberts created the Facebook event “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” on a whim several weeks ago.

Before long, hordes of people said they were interested.

As it stands, 1.9 million people have said on Facebook they will be going to Area 51 in Nevada on Sept. 20, and 1.4 million people have said they are interested.

The event has attracted widespread media coverage, and Roberts said filmmakers have reached out to him wanting to hear more of his story.

The attention has led to speculation about what might happen at the end of September.

Roberts, who is now encouraging people not to storm the U.S. Air Force base just north of Las Vegas, said there appears to be actual momentum toward people actually traveling to the state for the event.

“The two local inns in the area have been fully booked,” he said, “so there’s definitely going to be some people showing up.”

The Air Force, for its part, has issued a warning against storming the base.

“[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” a spokeswoman for the Air Force told the Washington Post. “The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”

With all the attention, Roberts now hopes to hold an actual event near Area 51, and he says he is still formulating what that event could be.

For the moment, he said he’s just enjoying the attention his creation has generated, even if it sometimes comes at his own expense.

“I have become the meme at this point,” he said. "I’ll just be scrolling through Facebook and I’ll just see my face photoshopped on the extra-terrestrial highway. So it’s cool, but it almost doesn’t feel real.”

©2019 The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, Calif.)
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