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Date: October 25, 2001
Source: Madison Capital Times

By Nicholas Hawkins, Correspondent for The Capital Times

BELLEVILLE - When John Hoppe, the director of UFOWisconsin, travels to Belleville this weekend, it won't be just to enjoy the annual UFO Day Festival.

Belleville is well-known for its reported UFO sightings, but a recent surge in these reports has prompted Hoppe to investigate. During his stay, he plans to do a little detective work.

Four UFO sightings in Belleville were reported in January and March of 1987 - prompting the start of the annual festival - but they ceased as abruptly as they began. Until Jan. 23, 2001, there had been no reported UFO activity in Dane County since 1996.

Since January, however, Dane County has had nine recorded sightings, including five in Belleville and three in Madison. The most recent, in Madison, was Oct. 18.

The recent rash of activity has caught Hoppe's attention and that of his UFOWisconsin.com website, which is dedicated to finding out who or what is behind such phenomena in the state.

The site's sources include the National UFO Reporting Center in Seattle, reports sent directly to UFOWisconsin.com, and other Internet sites devoted to the paranormal.

"Wisconsin is a state with a high number of UFO sightings, second to New Mexico," Hoppe writes on his site. "The people of Wisconsin need to know what is going on in their state and their own backyards."

This weekend, Hoppe plans to meet with contacts in Belleville, ask follow-up questions and investigate the area to see if there are logical explanations for the sightings.

According to Hoppe, 90 percent of UFO sightings can be identified by other means. Perception is distorted at night, he said, and aircraft, planets, stars, and anything from hang gliders to stunt kites can be mistaken for UFOs.

Considering Madison is the state capital and home to a regional airport, Hoppe said the area's frequent UFO sightings could be attributed to a high level of air traffic.

However, Hoppe said a slim chance still warrants an investigation in Belleville. And if all logical explanations are ruled out?

"Then we have a genuine UFO on our hands," Hoppe said. "We're not saying it's alien or anything like that. It's just not identified."

The five-year gap in reported sightings in Dane County hasn't been explained, Hoppe said, but it could be related to a reluctance to report UFOs. People fear being ridiculed and are discouraged by the stigma that attaches flying saucers and aliens to UFOs, he said.

Hoppe hopes to encourage more people to report sightings and provide his web site with information, which is vital to narrowing the search down to those few cases that are genuine.

"Maybe we'll find why Belleville is such a hot spot for UFOs," he said, "That 10 percent is what we're looking for."

Since the original sightings in 1987, Belleville has appointed itself the "UFO Capital of the World."

Its annual one-day festival is a fitting tribute to that title.

The fun will kick off at 9a.m. Saturday with a one-mile kids run, followed by 5K and 10K runs and walks.

The highlight of the day, the UFO parade, where the prevailing color is Martian green and outer space themes rules, will be at 1p.m.

The parade will be followed by "glow" bowling at Schwoegler Sugar River Lanes, 807 River St., from 2 to 5 p.m. and "monster" bowling at 9p.m.

There will also be games for children from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., a costume contest at 2:30 p.m. and a craft fair from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., all at Belleville Intermediate School. And there will be a haunted trail beginning at dusk at Belleville High School.

Food stands will be available all day at Library Park near downtown.

For information call 424-1373.

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