by Gene Marrano
If you’re not wrapped up in the Blue Ridge Marathon or the other activities that surround it this weekend you can try something a bit more way out – as in interstellar way out. The Virginia Chapter of MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) is hosting “UFOs at the
Lake!” this Saturday (April 21) at Smith Mountain Lake. MUFON gathers data from those who claim to have seen unidentified flying objects (UFO’s), taking a scientific approach to informing the public.
The organization is having a little fun with the event, which will be held at the Mariner’s Landing conference center (1217 Graves Harbor Trail, Huddleston). UFO’s at the Lake will also recognize the movie “Lake Effects,” which was filmed at Smith Mountain Lake and featured a sub-plot concerning “Smithy,” a large unidentified object some claim to have seen there – perhaps a large catfish or something more out-of-world. The tribute to Lake Effects includes soundtrack music and a slideshow.
One of the speakers at the all-day conference has studied the Loch Ness Monster in the past. Susan Swiatek, the MUFON Virginia State Director, said the organization is national and even international in scope, with about 2000 members. “We have a team of investigators in each state,” said Swiatek. People report their sightings to MUFON via the website; “Then we can follow up on the hot ones.” The website is MUFON.com.
Lights seen in the sky “may not get a follow up,” but other more credible sightings can unleash a team of investigators. Swiatek says part of MUFON’s mission is to get the public involved, to reach out to those who believe in the possibility of life elsewhere or who have actually seen UFO’s.
A convention-ending coffee and desert session is where the tribute to Lake Effects will take place. Retired Virginia Tech professor Dr. Henry Bauer will lead a discussion. “He’s really one of the world’s experts on the Loch Ness Monster and lake monsters in general,” said Swiatek, referring to the mythical creature in a Scottish lake. Swiatek said it seemed like the perfect opportunity to celebrate Lake Effects, which included some Roanokers in the production. Swiatek calls Bauer, who has written a book on the Loch Ness Monster, “one of the world’s great scientific thinkers.”
About 50 people attended last year’s MUFON Virginia state convention. Swiatek expects a larger crowd this year, especially with the tie-in to Lake Effects. Portions of the movie dealing with the Lake Monster will be aired as well. Those who attend these conventions include those who have seen UFO’s and those “just interested in the paranormal,” according to Swiatek. “It’s a little bit of everything,” she adds.
Swiatek has “seen some unusual things in the sky,” including an object in New Jersey she can’t explain, but can’t say for sure it was a UFO. Nevertheless, the Northern Virginia resident is hooked by the notion of life elsewhere. “I don’t think we’re alone. There are things that are up there. Life can thrive everywhere [and] is a force to be reckoned with throughout the universe.”
Sessions for UFO’s at the Lake range from $70 FULL registration, which includes Lunch and Dinner with 7 Presentations; $49 DAY Registration of 5 Presentations & Lunch; $23
DINNER & BEYOND Registration includes Dinner and 2 Presentations; $15
EVENING Registration includes Coffee & Dessert with 2 Presentations.
To register, go to http://ufos-sml.eventbrite.com or call 571-262-1496.