Almost 5,000 spectators gathered in downtown McMinnville on May 15 to watch the annual UFO Festival Alien Daze Parade, which featured a float from a Linfield art class.
The UFO festival celebrates a famous UFO sighting outside McMinnville in 1950. Adjunct Professor of 3D Design Totem Shriver said that, according to the story, resident Evelyn Trent was feeding her chickens when she saw a large, silver disc floating in the sky above the coop. She and her husband, Paul Trent, quickly retrieved their camera and took several photos of the hovering object. His class’ float — a chicken coop — reflected the history.
Shriver said that in 1958, the News Register received the photos and published them in the newspaper. The Associated Press discovered the photos, and then eventually gave McMinnville worldwide publicity.
Sophomore Sabrina Coleman said she marched in the parade as part of a project for Shriver’s studio design class.
“It was an awesome experience,” Coleman said. “I feel like if the whole class wouldn’t have been as into it as they were, then we wouldn’t have done as well as we did.”
Shriver said that the class built a chicken coop from scratch for the float and gave it a background story.
He said that the class dressed up as half-chicken and half-alien creatures who protested the way the News Register published the UFO sighting photos of their alien ancestors, giving them unwanted attention.
Shriver said the class built the chicken coop because it was a functional piece that could be used after the parade was over.
“We even bought four chickens and each group in the class adopted one and named it,” Shriver said. “We raised them in cardboard boxes until they grew older and the coop was finished.”
He said that although the actual process of constructing and decorating a functional sculpture was the point of the project, he considered participating in the parade a valuable experience as well.
“It gave people one of those little slices of life,” Shriver said. “I think everyone should have the chance to be in a parade at least once in their life. It’s an opportunity to be someone else. When you put on a mask, you become a different entity, and you don’t have to worry about marching down the street in front of a packed crowd.”
Coleman said she enjoyed the opportunity to be active in the McMinnville community.
“Participating in community events gets students out of the Linfield bubble and shows the community that we care about McMinnville,” Coleman said.
Promotions Coordinator for the McMinnville Downtown Association Ginger Williams said that the festival began 11 years ago when McMenamins Hotel Oregon opened in McMinnville.
“When McMenamins opened Hotel Oregon, it dug into unusual facts and history about the area,” Williams said.
She said that when McMenamins heard about the Trent family’s UFO sighting, it decided to host an annual event that centered around the mysterious occurrence.
Williams said that the McMinnville Downtown Association saw the festival as an opportunity to draw new people into the area to enjoy the downtown businesses.
“The event has certainly grown over the years,” Williams said. “It’s gone from a handful of entries to more than 40 entries with about 400 people in the parade. People came from as far as Washington and Nevada to participate in the event.”
For more information, visit www.ufofest.com.
Joanna Perterson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org