Did you know that Elmwood is not the only small town in Wisconsin to have had a high-profile UFO incident with a police officer that inspired an annual UFO Days festival?
Police officer, Glen Kazmar spotted a clump of red, white, and blue lights hovering over the town of Belleville, WI on January 15, 1987. Later that same night, he spotted the lights again from a high point on “Quarry Road” (which sounds a lot like the place where George Wheeler had his encounter) three or four miles west of Belleville. Local FAA was contacted, and radar contact with a slow-moving object was confirmed from Chicago and Aurora, Ill. Deputies in Dane and Green counties also saw the lights. By 3:00 AM that night, four police cars were observing the object from the top of Quarry Road. As the lights started to move west, Kazmar followed the object as far as Monticello.
That sighting, confirmed by several police officers from a variety of vantage points, became the first in a series of local UFO events that lasted until March. The highest concentration seems to have been around New Glarus, WI. The short UFO flap around Belleville inspired the local town to make their own bid for the title “UFO Capital of the World” and start their own UFO Day celebration. That’s how we ended up with two competing Wisconsin towns both claiming the spurious title of “UFO Capital of the World” and both capitalizing off their own local high-profile sightings with an annual festival.
Here’s a Chicago Tribune story from 1987 which retells the story of the original sightings from earlier that year and also reveals the growing local enthusiasm which eventually became Belleville’s version of UFO Days.
There are some strong similarities between the stories. Both involve police officers. Both involved an ongoing flurry of UFO appearances. Both had serious follow-up investigations. Both resulted in an annual small-town celebration of the extra-terrestrial.
It’s difficult to say if Belleville intentionally patterned its event after Elmwood’s earlier-established tradition, but Belleville’s Johnny-come-lately festival probably didn’t win much affection or appreciation from the residents of Elmwood or the organizers behind that small town’s UFO Days event. By the time the Belleville encounters occurred, 12 years had already elapsed since George Wheeler first saw a UFO at Elmwood, and Elmwood’s annual UFO Days had already been going for a decade and achieved national acclaim. But we’re not going to get involved in the rivalry. There’s plenty of UFO Days and plenty of beer to go around for everyone because it’s just getting started: “It’s happening.”
Belleville’s UFO Day is the last Saturday in October.