April 24th, 2019

UFO Festival: The Truth About This Flying Saucer

It happens every spring. ET, Klaatu, Darth Vader and the Coneheads invade downtown McMinnville.

With them are every form of alien, some adorned in tin foil, others wearing rubber masks. It’s the annual UFO Festival and it has become a must-be-seen event for anyone who beamed down or drove into town to greet them.

But here’s the question few people ask during the big UFO Festival Parade: Why is all this happening in McMinnville?

“I feel pretty confident in saying very few people locally know why this festival is here,” says Dani Chisholm, event organizer and longtime manager at McMenamins Hotel Oregon, ground zero for the three-day event. “People ask a lot of questions because they don’t understand why we do this.

“They don’t understand this was a big deal. This is one of the UFO sightings the government has not been able to debunk.”

Set aside your skepticism, alien deniers. This is all true.

The first of Paul Trent’s UFO photos taken in May 1950.

Evelyn and Paul Trent were at home on their family farm southwest of town on the evening of May 11, 1950, when Evelyn walked outside to feed her chickens. She looked up and saw what looked like a large disc silently hovering in the sky. She called for her husband Paul to bring their folding Kodak camera outside.

The metallic-looking object was still there when Paul emerged. He took a picture and advanced the film as fast as he could. The disc began to gain speed, so Paul quickly moved to his right for a second shot. Then, they later recalled, the object disappeared over the horizon with what they called a silent wind.

The Trents knew two things: They took two pictures in 30 seconds. And, they could not identify the object in those pictures.

Unidentified. Flying. Object.

What they didn’t know at the time was that those pictures would change their lives.

The photos as they appears in the Telephone Register on June 8, 1950.

Paul Trent shared the photos with the local paper, the Telephone Register, which published the photos and article and transmitted same to the wire services. Soon, the Trents and their UFO photos were national news.

The U.S. government, historically quick to declare a sighting as swamp gas or an errant weather balloon, had no explanation for what the Trents saw. The photographs were examined and experts declared the images had not been altered.

Now, 69 years later, the Trent pictures are perhaps the most recognized UFO photos in the world. This world at least. A documentary on the subject will be screened on Friday, May 17, as part of the 20th annual UFO Festival at McMenamins Hotel Oregon. It’s all part of the three-day celebration of all things alien.

And while fun takes place outside on Third Street, inside Hotel Oregon speakers, movies and panel discussions explore the underlying question behind the UFO Festival: Are we not alone in the universe?

“I’ve looked at what happens on the street as the fun side,” Dani Chisholm says. “That’s the not-so-serious side. They celebrate something that is unexplainable. No one can wrap their head around it so let’s celebrate it.”

And the UFO Festival does just that. There also will be an alien pet costume parade, trivia contest, kids play zone, an “Alien Abduction Dash 5K” run, a kids run, “Close Encounters of the Third Vine” wine tasting and plenty of music.

Inside Hotel Oregon, the mood shifts from reverie to research. “Listening to the stories and the speakers opens my mind to potential that there may be something out there,” Chisholm says.

For complete information about the 2019 UFO Festival, visit: ufofest.com

Dan Shryock writes each month about McMinnville and Yamhill County. He never knows what’s going to appear in his camera lens.