I’m reading Greg Jenkins’ fascinating “Chronicles of the Strange and Uncanny in Florida” (Pineapple Press). The first chapter covers a long history of UFO sightings in Florida, and it reminded me of my own attempt at a close encounter. Back in 1996, while researching for my 1st edition of “Visiting Small Town Florida”, I spent a curious evening with a group of Gulf Breeze “skywatchers” at Shoreline Park just outside of Gulf Breeze, near Pensacola. This informal group came together in the wake of frequent sightings that began in the late 1980’s and the release of Ed Walters 1990 book, “The Gulf Breeze Sightings” (William Morrow & Co.). At that time they were meeting almost every evening to watch for UFOs. I fully expected to find a bunch of tinfoil-hat-wearing loonies, but was surprised to find instead ordinary, every-day folks. They cooked out on the grill. Some brought covered dishes. They set out lawn chairs and blankets and settled in for what turned out to be a very sociable evening. They were very friendly to me (they fed me dinner!) We didn’t see any UFOs that night, but they recounted stories of sightings they’d had. They had a variety of theories, from alien-piloted spacecraft, to secret military “aurora-powered” rocket planes. Several years later Ed Walters suffered some discreditation when, allegedly, a styrofoam model UFO was found in his attic, after he had moved away. However, skywatchers continued to see unexplained aerial phenomenon for a number of years (and maybe still do). You just never know what you might find in (the skies above) a Florida small town.