Where We Live: McMinnville’s famous UFO Festival

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MCMINNVILLE, Ore. (KOIN) — Are we alone in the universe? 

It’s a question we’ve been asking since the dawn of humankind. Many people believe aliens exist and have even visited Earth on numerous occasions. 

A copy of the Telephone Register from June 8, 1950 on display at McMenamins Hotel Oregon in McMinnville. (KOIN) 

Some think they’ve even made a stop in McMinnville, Oregon. 

On May 11, 1950, Paul Trent and his wife, Evelyn Trent, were at their farm near Sheridan, roughly 9 miles southwest of McMinnville, when something happened that would capture the world’s attention. 

Paul Trent photographed what he claimed was a UFO above his farm on May 11, 1950. (LIFE Magazine) 

The Trents claimed to see a flying disc in the sky. 

Evelyn Trent later explained how she was outside that evening feeding the animals when she looked up and saw the object silently hovering to the northeast of the farm. 

She called for her husband to come outside and take a look and the pair both agreed with what they saw: a metallic object hanging in the sky that eventually sped off to the northwest. 

Paul Trent photographed what he claimed was a UFO above his farm on May 11, 1950. (LIFE Magazine) 

Those claims may have been easily dismissed had it not been for the photographs Trent captured; photographs that were published in the local paper — The Telephone Register — and quickly picked up by news outlets across the country. 

Trent’s photos went the 1950s version of viral. And for the rest of their lives, the Trents swore the photos were real and not a hoax. 

One of Paul Trent's May 11, 1950 photographs, zoomed in. (LIFE Magazine)

To this day, no one has been able to unequivocally debunk the images.

In 1999, the Portland-based brewery chain McMenamins opened the Hotel Oregon in downtown McMinnville and, recognizing a good marketing opportunity, launched a festival the same year to celebrate the reported Trent sighting.

The McMenamins Hotel Oregon UFO Festival is held for 3 days every May and attracts thousands of visitors who are all, in some way, fascinated by whatever happened near the Trents’ farm on May 11, 1950. 

Dani Chisolm, the property manager at Hotel Oregon, May 11, 2019. (KOIN) 

Dani Chisolm, the property manager at Hotel Oregon, isn’t sure what the Trents saw but she believes “they saw something.” 

“There’s definitely something out there and I think there’s a lot more to explain,” Chisolm said. 

Whether-or-not the claims are bona fide doesn’t seem to matter. The entire community, from the McMinnville Downtown Business Association to mom-and-pop shops all over town, embraces the legend that has solidified McMinnville’s place in the annals of extraterrestrial lore. 

A sign for the 20th annual UFO Festival in downtown McMinnville, May 11, 2019. (KOIN) 

Such enthusiasm has helped make the town’s UFO Festival the second-largest of its kind in the United States; only the UFO festival in Roswell, New Mexico is bigger.

This year’s UFO Fest takes place May 16-18. It will feature a parade on Saturday, May 18, various activities for kids, lectures by UFO experts and, of course, the opportunity to weigh in on the ongoing debate: are the Trent photographs real? 

…And if they are, does that mean we aren’t alone? 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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