Nova Scotia

UFO festival co-organizer wants to attract visitors of a different kind

As several hundred believers descend on the tiny fishing community of Shag Harbour this weekend for a festival marking a UFO sighting 50 years ago, a believer of a different kind is helping to make it all happen.

Shag Harbour is marking the 50th anniversary of a mystery

Brock Zinck is co-organizer of Shag Harbour UFO Festival. (Steve Berry/CBC)

As several hundred believers descend on the tiny fishing community of Shag Harbour this weekend for a festival marking a UFO sighting 50 years ago, a believer of a different kind is helping to make it all happen.

Brock Zinck was more than two decades away from making his presence on Earth known when, on Oct. 4, 1967, multiple witnesses reported seeing bright lights in the sky that then disappeared into the ocean. At the time, witnesses suspected a plane crash, but nothing was ever found and to this day the mystery persists.

Today, Zinck, 26, is one of the organizers of the Shag Harbour UFO festival and a second-generation keeper of the story.

Putting in his time

Growing up in nearby Barrington Passage, Zinck said he paid more attention to hockey than UFOs. But when he finished school and he and his girlfriend moved to Shag Harbour, he was looking for things to do.

A friend mentioned the Shag Harbour UFO Incident Society was having trouble staying afloat and suggested maybe he'd be interested in getting involved. Zinck bought the books written about the incident and found himself taken with the story.

"I started putting my time into it," he said. "I did some looking into it myself."

Hundreds of people are expected in Shag Harbour this weekend for a festival marking an incident 50 years ago. (Steve Berry/CBC)

Zinck sees the story as an untapped opportunity for the area, something that could bring tourists and some economic activity to a community many people bypass via Highway 103.

"This could be a huge driver for the area and that's my goal, to accomplish that," he said on Thursday ahead of the three-day festival.

Laurie Wickens, one of the witnesses on that day in 1967 and the first person to call police, is buoyed by Zinck's enthusiasm. The community has struggled to get support for events related to the incident and Wickens, who will lead tours this weekend, is already thinking about how the festival can grow.

Laurie Wickens was the first person to call the police after people saw lights in the sky off Shag Harbour on Oct. 4, 1967. (Steve Berry/CBC)

"This is the biggest it's ever been and there's been a lot of hard work going into it," he said.

Zinck's enthusiasm for the story, and what it could mean for the community, is obvious as he speaks about plans for the weekend with a promoter's passion.

Points on a map illustrate significant locations related to the sighting of the mysterious lights near Shag Harbour in 1967. (Steve Berry/CBC)

"We're basically going to be unveiling some stuff that's never been disclosed before to civilians or to the public," he said, predicting festival goers will be "significantly impressed."

"It'll be one more step down the rabbit hole."

Sights set on the future

He's as wrapped up in the story as anyone, but for Zinck it's also about believing in his community and what the incident can do to help Shag Harbour flourish.

"Economic tourism is the best form," he said. "You've got money coming from outside into your community. There's nothing better than that."

The Shag Harbour incident has been memorialized on various souvenirs over the years. (Steve Berry/CBC)

With so many visitors of the Earthling variety expected — some from as far away as British Columbia and parts of the U.S. — organizers have shifted some events to neighbouring Woods Harbour to gain additional space.

"We're going to fill that place up to the maximum," said Zinck. "People are coming from far and wide."

Zinck hopes after this weekend they'll keep coming, and in even larger numbers.

On Oct. 4, 1967, multiple witnesses reported seeing bright lights in the sky that then disappeared into the ocean. At the time, witnesses suspected a plane crash, but nothing was ever found and to this day it remains one of Canada's most well-documented UFO mysteries. 3:27

About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca