2011 marked the last year for the annual Aztec UFO Symposium, which has taken place for the past 14 years.
"The symposium actually went on four years longer than anyone expected," said Katie McClure, event organizer and vice president of the Friends of the Library Board. "I think 14 years is a pretty good run."
McClure cited declining interest in UFO gatherings as a reason for the cancellation, as well as lack of board members willing and able to put the intensive amount of time into planning and holding the event.
During the symposium's prime years, 2002 through 2005, some of the best-known speakers on the UFO phenomenon spoke at the conference, with the Friends of the Library covering only travel costs. The popular events were accounts of firsthand experiences of those who claimed to have encountered UFOs or aliens.
"But with the advent of cable TV, you can watch shows about UFOs all day long," said McClure, who added that other well-known UFO conferences also are scaling back or canceling annual events.
"I think there's just a lack of anything new to talk about, and people are getting tired of hearing the same thing," she said.
The main goal of the UFO symposium was to raise funds for the library, McClure said. Although last year's symposium was successful, the cost of holding the symposium always is increasing.
"At the same time, we've noticed a decline in the amount of visitors to the event," she said.
The symposium traditionally has attracted UFO enthusiasts from around the country and the world, filling the hotels in Aztec and spilling over into Farmington and Bloomfield hotels. Last year, however, McClure said the Aztec hotels did not fill up.
"The board has been watching the trends, and we could see the interest declining," she said.
Board members also noticed that the symposium was turning into a joint UFO-New Age gathering as opposed to focusing on the 1948 UFO crash in Aztec.
"We noticed that the focus started shifting from looking at UFO phenomena from a scientific and objective standpoint to new-agey things like channeling and the metaphysical," McClure said. "We never wanted to go in that direction, so that's one of the reasons we were thinking it might be time for something new. We wanted to end the symposium's run on a high note."
McClure, who resigned this year from the Friends of the Library Board after 10 years, said the board temporarily has disbanded.
"When you have six people doing most of the work, along with taking care of their kids, elderly parents, working full-time jobs ... it's just too much," she said.
McClure hopes a new board, which can bring some fresh ideas and new perspectives, will be established.
Aztec Library Director Sabrina Hood is looking forward to exploring new directions for the library.
"My main concern is that the library provide what the community most wants and needs," she said. "I'm looking forward to focusing on issues like early childhood literacy, cultural diversity, health and wellness and exploring how we can fully utilize new technology such as digital readers."
Community Development Director Roshana Moojen expressed regret at the symposium's demise.
"While the symposium didn't bring in as many people as events like the BluesFest, it was such a unique event for the region, and people came from all over to attend," she said. "Hopefully, some new volunteers will find a way to get it going again someday."