Every May, thousands of visitors flock to McMinnville, a quiet Willamette Valley town located an hour southwest of Portland, to attend the city’s famous UFO Festival. Second in popularity only to the UFO festival in Roswell, New Mexico, Oregon’s annual celebration features four days of parades, costume contests, expert speakers and family fun.
In June 1947 — a month before the legendary Roswell crash — pilot Kenneth Arnold claimed that he saw a fleet of silvery objects traveling at supersonic speed near Mount Rainier, southeast of Seattle. An article about the sighting in the East Oregonian coined the term “flying saucers” and triggered a surge of UFO reports across the country.
Three years later, Evelyn and Paul Trent of McMinnville snapped what are widely considered to be the first photos of a UFO in the United States. The photos caused a firestorm when they were published in newspapers worldwide — to this day, they are considered some of the most credible UFO photos ever taken.
Founded in 1999, the McMenamins UFO Festival began as a way to honor the famous 1950 Trent sighting, and has evolved into an epic celebration of all things extraterrestrial.
In past years, the family-friendly fun at the UFO Festival has included the following:
- A “landing party” with live music, vendor booths, a beer garden and more
- A purr-fectly adorable pet costume contest
- UFO/Alien trivia night
- Live music from a variety of spacey rock bands
- The “Alien Abduction Dash” 5K Run
- A weekend-long sci-fi film festival
- Lectures by leading ufology experts, alien researchers and UFO witnesses
- Ticketed lunches with the speakers
- Alien Costume Ball featuring music by Big Mama Gayle and her Sugar Daddies
There’s also an annual UFO Costume Parade, which invites fans of all ages to dress up as their favorite character in the galaxy (think Darth Vader, Superman, little green men or anything in between) and join the procession through downtown McMinnville.
Over the festival’s nearly two decades, featured speakers have run the gamut from authors, filmmakers and investigators to crop circle experts, Bigfoot hunters and alien implant removal specialists. Recent notables include Kathleen Marden, one of the world’s foremost alien abduction researchers; Stanton T. Friedman, a UFO-logy pioneer who has published more than 90 papers; and Travis Walton, who claims to have been abducted by aliens in Arizona in 1975.
The 2018 UFO Festival featured a screening of a documentary on the Trent case, a well-known UFO sighting near McMinnville in 1950, as well as speakers like investigative pentagon reporter George Knapp, alien propulsion specialist Bob Lazar, and a live broadcast of the paranormal podcast Ground Zero with Clyde Lewis and much more.
How to Attend
The UFO Festival is hosted by the historic McMenamins Hotel Oregon, located 40 miles (64 km) southwest of downtown Portland. Many events are free; visitors can purchase VIP passes for special speaker events.