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The Interviews at Exeter
Visiting The Exeter UFO Festival. Fifth in a series on UFO Tourism
by Bernie O’Connor – firstname.lastname@example.org
Hot on the heels of his best selling 1965 book, Interrupted Journey, about a couple taken on board a Flying Saucer in New Hampshire, John G. Fuller learned of another UFO case that happened in New Hampshire. This case became the subject of his next best seller, Incident at Exeter in 1966—and that case is what this Festival at Exeter is all about.
On the night of September 3rd, 1965 in nearby Kensington, 18-year-old Norman Muscarello was hitchhiking home from his girlfriend’s home in Amesbury when he saw a strange object in the sky. The object was described as being about the size of a car, with flashing red lights. Muscarello reported the sighting to the Exeter Police Department, and Officers Eugene Bertrand Jr., and David Hunt, arrived at the scene and investigated the area.
They too observed the object as it hovered 100 feet away and at about 100 feet altitude. As it rocked back and forth, the pulsating red lights flashed in rapid sequence, first from right to left, then left to right, each cycle taking no more than two seconds. At the same time, the dogs and horses in the area began to go crazy. Instinctively remembering his police training, Bertrand dropped to one knee, drew his revolver, and pointed it at the object. He then decided that shooting would not be wise, so he re-holstered the weapon.
The Officers and Muscarello later described the object as “unidentified.”
Although several separate sightings had been made in the area by numerous witnesses in the weeks leading up to this specific incident, it was the “Incident at Exeter” that became by far, the most famous.
Upon looking into this Festival, I learned that the members of the local Exeter Kiwanis club are responsible for organizing and running the event. In fact, the idea for the event came from one of its members. In 2009, Dean Merchant came up with the idea to create an event centered around the famous UFO event known as the “Incident at Exeter.” As he’s described in the Kiwanis Online magazine article, Close Encounters of the Kiwanis Kind: “Dean’s become somewhat of a local expert on UFO phenomena, so he knows that the mysteries of Exeter don’t stop at the “incident.” He guides groups on tours of the different locations where sightings have been reported. During the Cold War, he tells his audiences, there seemed to be a connection between UFO sightings and nearby military bases. “I call this UFO alley, because from Amesbury, Massachusetts, on the Merrimack River up into Exeter, no place has more sightings,” he says.
For those of our readers who at not familiar with the Kiwanis Club, it’s an international charitable organization made up of local clubs, whose members are dedicated to improving the lives of children, one community at a time.
Wanting to learn more about the Festival, its history and the Kiwanis Club’s involvement I contacted the Club’s local Exeter branch and Bob Cox, the Exeter Kiwanis President agreed to an interview.
Bernie: Thank you, Bob for speaking with me today.
Bob: Sure, Bernie anytime. What do you want to know about our Festival?
Bernie: When the Festival was first proposed, was there any push back from the community because it featured UFOs, a sort of fringe topic at the time?
Bob: We didn’t get much push back at all. But like any new event, it took a while to get the town merchants on board. Now 14 years along, the Exeter UFO Festival is a great opportunity to learn more about the Incident at Exeter, the town of Exeter, and other UFO-related topics. The festival features a variety of speakers, panels, and activities, all of which are designed to educate and entertain visitors. In addition to the educational programming, the festival also features a variety of fun activities for kids, such as face painting, rock painting, games, and crafts, including the ever popular Crash Site for the younger kids that is held in our beautiful park. There’s also plenty of food and entertainment on hand. Plus, we have 2 Trolley rides that take visitors out to the site where the famous “Incident at Exeter” took place.
Bernie: You said a “Crash Site” for kids? What’s does that involve? It sounds like fun.
Bob: It sure is, the younger kids love it. Recyclable materials are saved over the course of the year by our Kiwanis members and then its used by the kids to build UFO related arts and crafts during the Festival. It’s a great family fun attraction.
Bernie: How has the festival grown over the years? On average, how many people attend?
Bob: We went from one, to two, fun-filled days. Attendance now averages around 3,000 people. These visitors come from all over the state as well as a good number of attendees from outside of New Hampshire.
Bernie: How many volunteers help out to organize and run the festival? And do you use this event to recruit new Kiwanis members?
Bob: Currently, we have 25 to 30 volunteers, plus nine dedicated Kiwanis Members. We greatly appreciate their combined efforts in helping make the Festival into a success for the community. And, yes, it’s the perfect venue to help recruit new Kiwanis members. Just stop by our tent to say “Hello!” and to find out more about the Club.
Bernie: How well does the community embrace its UFO heritage?
Bob: I would say quite well. Thus, the success of the Festival.
Bernie: How well attended are the guest speaker’s presentations? Do Festival attendees openly share any UFO sightings or experiences they may have had?
Bob: Easily 450 to 500 people attend these sessions. They are quite popular. And yes, if time allows, attendees come forward to report their experiences with UFOs. We have a special “Meet the Speakers” event where the audience gets a chance to ask questions of our guest speakers. This is usually where this happens.
Bernie: In the past, you had such prominent speakers such as Stanton Friedman and Richard Dolan. I see that you have a very impressive line up this year as well.
Bob: We have among others, Ralph and Deborah Blumemthal, he’s an award winning reporter for the New York Times. Peter Robbins, best selling UFO author, TV celebrity and UFO investigator. Ronny LeBlanc, who stars in Expedition Bigfoot. He’ll talk about “What is Bigfoot? Highlighting the Connection to UFOs." Then there’s Mike Stevens who is the founder of Granite Sky, which provides support to any and all experiencers of extraterrestrial encounters, contact and abduction. And many more.
Bernie: Have you ever seen a UFO or had an unusual UFO experience? What do you believe UFOs are?
Bob: I have not seen anything of what you might consider a UFO. But I believe UFO’s are from another solar system.
Bernie: Thank you Bob, it sounds like you and the Kiwanis Club has planned a great event.
Bob: Thank you Bernie, but it’s all about raising funds to help the Seacoast charities.
To learn more about all of the exciting Festival events and speakers visit: exeterufofestival.org
The Exeter Kiwanis Club has been serving the community of Exeter and the surrounding areas by helping with fundraising, volunteering and generally supporting Non-Profits, Schools and those in our community who need our help. Want to talk? Email us at: email@example.com
Now, The Commemorative Patches …
One thing very unique and unusual about this Festival is the involvement of the Exeter Police department. They are the only police department in the country that creates a beautiful embroidered patch to honor a UFO Festival. I reached out to Chief Stephan R. Poulin, MS, CFI of the Exeter Police Department, and Chair Government Relations Committee, NH Assoc. of Chiefs of Police, for an interview to find out how this came about and he kindly obliged.
Bernie: Thank you Chief Poulin for sharing you time with me today. Our readers will appreciate it as well.
Chief Poulin: Thank you Bernie, glad to be of service to The Observer.
Bernie: So please tell me Chief Poulin, when did the idea of creating unique patches for the Festival start? And who came up with the initial idea?
Chief Poulin: I always loved the history of the Exeter Police department being involved in this particular UFO event. Especially being Officers Bertrand and Hunt were two of the three original key witnesses. I wanted to embrace and commemorate the UFO festival in a unique way that could be fun as well.
I made Chief in 2019 and with Maple, our comfort dog, coming on board in 2022, we needed a way to raise funds. So I came up with the idea to create a special patch for last year’s festival, and I was able to get my idea approved and in production just in time for the 2002 Festival. That first run of patches were limited to only 200 pieces each with a numbered certificate. These sold out in 15 minutes. This year for 2023, I wanted a new design, not numbered, and thus, we are able to offer more patches to meet the demand.
Bernie: Does the whole department get involved with giving you input for designing the yearly patch?
In other words, do you “brainstorm ideas” to come up with these great designs?
Chief Poulin: All the members of the department love the idea of the patch and they all get behind it contributing ideas. And ideas come from our wonderful community as well. So far, as the patches go, we seem to have two winners. But we are always open to new designs in the future.
As for this year’s patch, after considering many ideas, I ultimately decided on "an alien with a peace sign”, because I felt it represents the peaceful characteristics of our warm and welcoming community. Beyond being a cool collectible, this “out of this world” patch also goes towards a good cause as, the proceeds from the sales will be used to cover our costs associated with our comfort dog program.
Maple our comfort dog, will be the guest of honor at our table helping to sell this year’s patches.
Bernie: Being you and your department embraces the UFO festival, can I say your department is “UFO friendly?” How does your department deal with UFO witnesses that make reports to you?
Chief Poulin: Yes, you could say we are UFO friendly, due to our town’s UFO heritage. Though lately, we haven’t had any new UFO activity in our area. But as for witness reports, should one come along, we treat everyone with fairness, openness, and most importantly with respect- especially if they are a witness to a potentially traumatic or life-altering experience.
Bernie: Thank you again for your service to the community Chief Poulin, and good luck with the Festival.
Chief Poulin: Thank you Bernie, we look forward to working on this fun event every year.
Bernie: 10-4 Chief Poulin, over and out.
See: Exeter Police unveil new patch for annual UFO festival:
For more information about the Incident at Exeter:
Norman Muscarello Recalls His UFO Incident at Exeter. Twenty-five years after his famous close encounter with a UFO near Exeter, NH, Norman Muscarello retold his story in a rare public appearance. Here is the transcript of that conversation as documented by the students of the Exeter Area High School.
Both the Exeter sighting and the Betty and Barney Hill abductions are discussed here. And a rare photo of Betty Hill at the actual abduction site.
Besides Exeter, this article has an unexpected bonus. A photo of the actual dress worn by Betty Hill during her abduction. Who knew? Maybe here’s a chance for some new forensics tests here anyone?
An article detailing all things extraterrestrial at Exeter’s UFO Fest.
And a huge personal shout out from me to Mark Slosberg, the Exeter Kiwanis Club Secretary for helping make this article possible. Thank you!
After Exeter, why not Chehalis?
It’s that time of year again, The Chehalis Flying Saucer Party is back. And it’s bigger then ever!
This year's theme will be celebrating the 90’s UFO pop-culture craze.
Plan on heading out to Chehalis, Washington on September 22nd and 23rd for The Chehalis Flying Saucer Party. It’s been expanded to a two-day celebration that remembers pilot Kenneth Arnold’s historic flight from the Chehalis Airport on June 24th, 1947. Hie encounter with a formation of UFOs is a cultural touchstone that gave birth to the term “flying saucer.”
This one event kick-started modern UFOlogy as we know it! As a NEW feature this year, the first Northwest Flying Saucer Film Fest to be held on Saturday the 22nd at the beautiful McFiler’s Theater in Chehalis. Northwest filmmakers were asked to submit their UFO themed short films, documentaries, animations, or music videos to compete for cash prizes as well as to get their work screened before a live theater audience.
More details about these all of these fine events are available courtesy of The Chronicle.