(Alison Penn Photo)

A crowd of around 100 people joined Stanton Friedman, a nuclear physicist and world-renowned ufologist, for his opening talk titled “Traveling through the Stars” on Friday morning and another audience gathered for a retirement party in the afternoon to celebrate Friedman’s potentially last UFO Festival.

The International UFO Museum and Research Center was buzzing with visitors and even had a line out the door around 9:30 a.m. The smaller crowd came at 4 p.m. for his retirement party in the North Library with an impromptu question-and-answer session that covered Friedman’s lectures and personal life. Friedman will be 84 on July 29 and said he has contributed over 60 years of work using science and collecting data to his UFO crusade.

In the morning lecture, Friedman guided the audience through the famous 1947 Roswell Incident, his career as a nuclear physicist — and then his research on ufology.

As a believer in the existence of extraterrestrial life and its visitation to earth, Friedman said, “Man is not alone and our kids will grow up, grandkids, great-grandson will grow up knowing that — and that’s good.”

In March, it was announced Friedman intends to retire from the UFO Festival circuit. He estimates that he has done 700 lectures on this subject in all 50 states and even internationally. When asked about his retirement plans, he said he plans to philosophize on the big picture more and traveling for pleasure instead of work. Agreeing that he is still curious about ufology, he added in his retirement he intends to find out what the aliens have in mind for earth from testimonials of communicating with extraterrestrials.

To pass on his torch of research, Friedman said Kathleen Marden, niece of the allegedly abducted Betty and Barney Hill, is another author and lecturer that will carry on his work. Friedman said his first choice would be John Greenwald, who runs the Black Vault because he is “a sharp young man with plenty of data.”

His lecture and retirement party had themes regarding what he called “the galactic community” that may be a reality one day and there are more questions to be answered. To have this community, he said earthlings need to let go of the ego of being the center of the universe and examine the proclivity to war and how humans operate on planet earth. He said he has an 11-year-old great-grandson and often thinks of what world his descendant inhabits in the future.

“The universe works on fusion folks — like it or not,” he said. “That’s what goes on in all those stars out there and so we’re babes in the woods. It’s not surprising that we haven’t expanded our thinking … I expect that my great-grandson will be alive when we send visitors to other planets, maybe colonies out there — and maybe we welcome a biannual meeting of the galactic federation global neighborhood association, so to speak.”

At the afternoon event, UFO staff presented a plaque and gave Friedman a watch for his dedication, time and service, loyalty, friendship and generosity, and that he will be remembered as “one of the greats” of the museum. The staff said he would be truly missed and wish him well in his next step.

“I have been very grateful for the fine reception I have received in the 20 years that I have been coming here,” Friedman said. “I’m delighted at the museum — it looks great. Somebody told me last year there were 223,000 visitors to Roswell — to the museum. That’s a lot considering you are in — I hate to say — you’re in the middle of nowhere here.”

He said the sheer number of visitors to the UFO Museum and Roswell shows there is a genuine interest in aliens and UFOs. He thanked the city for sharing these somewhat controversial topics in a “sensible” way instead of being “ridiculous.” Friedman said Roswell has excelled at presenting the “the best stuff” at the annual festival and the museum and humbly excluded himself from the category.

For scientists and journalists, Friedman said he encourages them to examine the data through government documents to “do their homework” before writing or researching. To the press in particular, Friedman said there is overwhelming evidence, potential stories and reports with data to back it in ufology. He said there is an “untapped mine of information” on unreported sightings and is “waiting for the shoe to drop” on the information on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, a Defense Department project on UFOs from a former Pentagon official, that was released in The New York Times and other publications in December of last year.

Since he shared his opinion that Walker AirForce Base was closed without reason and unfairly, he said he is glad that Roswell is reaping the benefits from the 1947 Incident and the city is acclimating in the modern age. Saying he has always been welcomed in Roswell, Friedman said it was a “favorable climate” where he felt his lectures were listened to with rapt attention. He shared that “no secrets can be kept” since Roswell citizens with connections to the 1947 Incident still remain.

“I don’t know what is planned here but I do know that I owe a debt to this community,” he said. “I owe a debt to the former military people who did speak out. I think of Walter (Haut) and others. It took courage. It may not seem like it to people who take it for granted.”

“You’re talking about the pioneer,” Donald Schmitt, a well-known UFO investigator, said of Friedman during the retirement party. “You’re talking about that one person that if not for this gentleman right here, this museum would not be here. Roswell would not be here. Roswell would be just part of the ash heap of unknown history. The balloon explanation would have remained the extent and that would be it and here we’re talking — I would like to believe most of you would accept as one of the greatest stories of all time.

“Stan Friedman led the charge. Granted the witnesses, if not for them, but Stan was the one who got the ball rolling … Our greatest loss will be that if we don’t see him here again that we certainly intend to carry on and finish this because you’re the one who started it and we will finish it.”

An attendee to both events, Liam Ralph, said he drove with his father from San Antonio, Texas, to experience the UFO Festival. Ralph, 15, said he enjoys science and has developed an interest in ufology in the last five years. Ralph said some of the research he has found is in pseudoscience, so he appreciates the thorough work of Friedman and Schmitt in their quest for the truth.

“Well, it’s bittersweet, I think he’s probably my favorite — one of my favorite ufologists out there,” Ralph said of Friedman’s retirement. “I think he’s one of the more scientific ones out there trying to bring ufology into more of a scientific stance in the eyes of the public and the press … I’m just very happy to see that he brought a new industry to Roswell — which was tourism. Without him, it wouldn’t be here — at least it would have been a long time before someone dug up the story, before somebody interviewed Jesse Marcel about his finding. I think it is very cool to see it and he’s done a lot of amazing work in the field of ufology.”

“The town deserves visitors, business from the tourists, if you will, and an opportunity to enlighten, to educate and entertain,” Friedman said. “Why not? Do it all. So, thank you very much!”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

This content was originally published here.