Photo: Dee Browning/Shutterstock

Cancel Your May Plans: There's a UFO Festival in the PNW

Oregon Oregon Festivals
by Suzie Dundas Feb 2, 2024

Usually, when most people think of aliens and UFOs, they envision Roswell, New Mexico — site of the supposed 1947 UFO crash that the government claimed was a weather balloon — or perhaps Area 51 in Nevada, a top-secret Air Force base said to be where the US studies and researches aliens. And if you’re a real ET-aficionado, you may even think of a destination like Alaska, where unexplained phenomena seem to be a dime a dozen.

But if you’re the kind of person who normally has your eyes on the skies, you don’t need to go as far north as Alaska to find a UFO: you just need to go to the tiny town of McMinnville, Oregon, a pretty little town about an hour south of Portland. That’s because McMinnville was where the famous “Trent Sighting” UFO photos published in TIME Magazine were taken. And now, every May, the town celebrates its most famous photographs with weekend-long UFO festival celebrating all-things-alien. And it looks like it may be one of the coolest festivals in the PNW.

Here’s what to know if you’re planning a trip to the McMenamin’s UFO Festival in McMinnville, Oregon.

McMinnville is in Oregon’s famous wine country

McMinnville OR, in the Willamette valley

Photo: Jess Kraft/Shutterstock

McMinnville sits squarely in the middle of Oregon’s famous Willamette Valley, home to more than 700 wineries. Willamette Valley pinot noirs have won multiple global awards, and it’s generally considered to make some of the best wines in the US. Naturally, the festival incudes plenty of opportunities for food and drink, and most of the events are centered around frivolity, with plenty of on-site vendors. There are also tons of great restaurants and tasting rooms in downtown McMinnville, and swinging by a few of them during the festival weekend is practically a must-do.

The festival is — wait for it — out of this world

mcminnville UFO festival parade

Photo: Dee Browning/Shutterstock

Events at the festival are focused on what the organizers call “all things extraterrestrial.” Downtown McMinnville closes to cars on the Saturday of the festival to accommodate the UFO parade, which is on the same day of the pet costume contest. So if you like the idea of sitting in the sunshine, sipping a local beer while watching dozens of dogs dressed like aliens and UFOs walk by (and who doesn’t?), you may want to make plans to go to McMinnville in May.

Other events of the festival include live music, a 5K fun run, and an evening “landing party” at a local bar. Alien costumes are encouraged at all activities, obviously.


While the festival certainly doesn’t take itself very seriously, it does have some lectures and seminars that dive deeper into the science of extraterrestrials and possibility that life does exist on other planets. Past festival speakers include Earl Grey Anderson, a professor of UFOlogy and chapter president of MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network); author and physiologist Irena Scott; and award-winning investigative journalist George T. Knapp. There are usually four or five speakers per festival, with a nominal entry fee to the various lectures. There are also moving screenings, dining specials, and plenty of unofficial events associated with festival weekend.

Where to stay at the McMinnville McMenamins UFO Festival

The festival is co-sponsored by the McMinnville Downtown Association, but the primary sponsor is McMenamins Hotel Oregon.  If you’ve stayed at a McMenamins hotel, you’ll understand why sponsoring a UFO festival is a natural fit. The hotels are all unique and quirky, housed in historic buildings with hidden bars and unexpected features. The McMinnville McMenamins (that’s a mouthful) hotel was built in 1905 as a soda fountain and bus depot. Now, it’s a boutique hotel with a rooftop restaurant and and bar themed after a turn-of-the-century magician.

McMenamins Hotel Oregon has only 38 rooms, so if you’re planning to attend the festival, book early.

If McMenamins is sold out, or you want something with a little more space, check out the nearby Vintages Trailer Resort (which seems like a great fit for anyone attending a UFO Festival). Guests of the resort get a voucher for free and discounted wine tastings around town, and with free cruiser bike rentals available to guests, you don’t need to worry about drinking and driving if you decide to buy an alien-themed cocktail or two at the festival.

About the Trent Sighting UFO photos

mcminnville ufo festival - time trent images cover

Photo: The Vintages/Time Magazine

The Trent UFO photos are a series of photos taken in 1950 at the Trent family farm in McMinnville. They show a disc-shaped object hovering in the sky above the fields, which many people believe is a UFO. The object was seen by both Evelyn and Paul Trent, and supposedly moved away soon after the photos were taken. They were published in the local newspaper and soon gained national attention after being published in TIME Magazine. The photos have been debated and analyzed by researchers and scholars for decades, but there’s no definitive conclusion as to their authenticity.

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