In the San Jacinto Mountains, halfway between Palm Springs and Temecula’s wine country, lies the Anza Valley, where for decades strange tales about a golden orb UFO nicknamed “Goldie” have immersed the community in rich, otherworldly folklore.
Perhaps the most notable attraction in the mainly agricultural and ranching community is the Cahuilla Casino Hotel. But Anza’s history of UFO sightings and reported paranormal activity have attracted global attention to the small Southern California mountain community as a UFO hotspot.
Anza has been featured on national television, most notably an episode of the 1990s series Strange Sightings, and YouTube is rife with videos on the subject.
In recognition of Anza’s disqueting lore of UFOs, black helicopters, bigfoots and raining frogs and in the spirit of “Keeping Anza Weird,” the community will hold its inaugural Goldie Fest 2022 on Aug. 26 and 27 at the Anza Lions Equestrian Arena, 39510 Kirby Road. Gates open at 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 26. Dinner and breakfast will be provided. Parking is $10.
“We’re going to sit in Lions Field, spend the night telling stories and looking for Goldie,” said event organizer Annika Knoppel, who added that a costume contest is planned for the first night of the event.
Among the event’s sponsors are the Anza Valley Lions Club, Highway 371 Business Association and Anza Area Trail Town.
Before stargazing and UFO hunting begin on Aug. 26, attendees can participate in a short guided hike to the Hamilton Museum at 5 p.m. to learn about Anza’s rich homesteading culture and the historic Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. Guests are encouraged to bring their telescopes and night vision goggles and to have their mobile phone cameras at the ready for the dark sky event to follow.
Knoppel said she purchased 10 silver shower caps from Amazon just for the occasion. “And I have some headbands with antennas, I will be giving those out to attendees,” Knoppel said. “If you want to be abducted, you want to be appropriately dressed.”
Anza’s “Goldie” legend dates as far back as 1858, when a newlywed couple and their priest were en route to San Diego, traveling via stagecoach on the old Butterfield Stage Coach Route, which is now Highway 79. They first stopped at the post office in Aguanga, the ruins of which remain standing to this day, before departing for San Diego.
As they passed Cahuilla Mountain, they noticed a golden orb of light ascending above the ridgeline.
“They assumed because it was not the sun or moon that it was a curse brought on them by the local Indians. They called it the ‘Curse of the Dancing Sun,’ ” said Roland Vellanoweth, 59, who lived in Anza for 23 years but now lives in Inkom, Idaho.
Vellanoweth bought his home in Anza in the late 1990s, near Terwilliger and Wellman roads, giving him a straight-shot view of Cahuilla Mountain.
“When we were purchasing our house, our real estate agent said, ‘You have a perfect view of alien mountain!’ I asked her to tell me about that, and she told me about Goldie,” Vellanoweth said.
In the more than two decades he lived in Anza, Vellanoweth said he had multiple encounters with Goldie, and perhaps Goldie’s family members as well. His most notable sighting was in August 2015, when, suffering from a bout of insomnia, he was outside his house smoking a cigar about 12:15 a.m. when he saw what he thought were fireworks over Cahuilla Mountain.
“They appeared to have tails, but as they ascended higher above Cahuilla Mountain the tails dislodged,” Vellanoweth said. He said three lighted, diamond-shaped UFOs grew larger as they rapidly flew toward Thomas Mountain and then disappeared.
Knoppel is hoping Goldie Fest becomes an annual event and puts Anza on the map as a community known for something other than illegal marijuana grows.
“I’m on a mission to change the perception of Anza,” Knoppel said.