In 1973, more than 500 UFO sightings were reported in the southeast Missouri area of Piedmont and Wayne County. The epicenter was Clearwater Lake, where Reggie Bone and his Clearwater High School basketball team in Piedmont reported seeing a bright shaft of light coming down from the sky. They, along with hundreds of others, reported seeing a variety of UFO sightings in the area during the early spring of 1973.

The reports sparked national headlines and fueled a major boost in tourism to the area. UFO fans from across the country and world visited the town.

Fast forward 51 years later, Piedmont has opened the UFO Capital of Missouri Park. Diane Elkin, a volunteer who made the park a reality, said it includes a 16 foot UFO, a six foot tall alien, and playground equipment, as well as historical information about the sightings.

“Back in 2023, Piedmont held their first UFO Festival, and afterwards, there was a number of us that really saw an opportunity to boost tourism here in the area. And the idea of creating a park came along,” she told Missourinet.

In 2023, Rep. Chris Dinkins passed a bill designating Piedmont and Wayne County as the UFO Capitals of Missouri. The law was a way to help boost tourism in the area where the sightings occurred.

“Diane and I were both very young, so we mostly remember stories of all the sightings, more so than the actual sightings. But the highways were lined with vehicles,” Dinkins told Missourinet. “People would come from miles and miles away, from different states and even from other countries, to try to catch a glimpse of some of these UFO sightings.”

According to Dinkins, the Missouri Department of Economic Development completed an economic impact study on the area.

“What they said was that tourism was one area that we were not capitalizing on,” said Dinkins. “And so, we are continuing to look at ways that we can capitalize on tourism. People come to the area to see Clearwater Lake, Wappapello Lake, Sam A. Baker State Park, and a lot of our natural beauty, but we want to find a way to get them to stay and spend more money.”

As for whether unexplainable sightings still occur there, Elkin has no doubt.

“I know people very close to me that have seen things that just aren’t explainable,” said Elkin. “I’m not going to say what it is. We don’t know what it is. Things that are happening in the sky. So, you know, while 1973 was the big push for this, I honestly don’t think it ended there.”

Elkin said volunteers have plans to continue adding attractions to the park.

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