Saturday, May 19, 2007

The 8th Annual McMinnville UFO Festival Mini Report

The 8th Annual McMinnville UFO Festival in McMinnville, Oregon. The festival happens in the small town of McMinnville every year, McMinnville being the home of Paul and Evelyn Trent. Paul Trent snapped two photos of a UFO he saw flying in the sky above his farm in 1950.

Last minute cancellation had us scurrying with little time to get up to McMinnville, and we didn't bring a camera (damn!) I forgot my cell phone, and we trusted the vague directions on the web site. 1-5 indeed! For anyone leaving the Eugene area, do not take 1-5, which should seem obvious, I do know. Oh, and another obvious point: don't travel during rush hour. Nothing like being stuck -- stuck! as in dead stopped -- on the interstate! We were in Portland before we realized we were way off, but since my husband's a maniac (thank god) we took a lovely rural road through Newberg to McMinnville. Next time: take 99W. Direct, simple, there you go. Okay, you probably don't want to hear about my near panic attack stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, and how I've turned into a hick living here for 30 years and now think of po-dunk Eugene as the big city,

We get there about 6:00 pm, no time to eat, and our blood sugar is dropping by the second. Check into the delightful McMenamins Hotel Oregon and walk a short block to where the conference speakers: Peter Robbins, Peter Davenport, and David Jacobs, were speaking.

The room seemed packed. It was good to know you could order a slice of pizza and a glass of that great McMenamins brew. (My favorite is the Ruby Ale, he likes their Hammerhead.) We hadn't eaten since noon; blood sugar going down fast. The pizza helped, but we both needed real food. The constant sound of the ancient cash register clanking every few moments was a distraction though, hard to hear the speakers.

First speaker, Peter Robbins, who gave a very thorough talk on the death (murder) of James Forrestal. Robbins was articulate, his research solid. I was interested, being very familiar with the Forrstal story. But as my husband said -- who wasn't familiar with the story -- it was boring. I have to agree; unless you had some background into the topic, it would be hard to see exactly what it had to do with UFOs. For the context -- a UFO Festival -- the choice was a poor one. Even I found myself getting impatient, and I was interested. Don't misunderstand, I thought Robbins did a good job of researching his material. I just don't think it was a good fit for this particular venue.

By this time it was getting late, and, despite the slice of pizza, we were both hungry and tired. David Jacobs was next, and he was very engaging. He was funny and his overview of UFOs in pop culture, leading up to the abduction phenomeana, was an excellent choice for the festival. We left towards the end, and so I didn't get to hear the last of Jacob's presentation.

I enjoyed Jacob's but wonder at his conclusions regarding the Contactees. He dismissed them as charlatans, and while he was funny doing it, I wondered at his easy rejection. Jacob's has said in the past that, as a history professor, he approaches the UFO phenomena from that perspective. That makes a lot of sense to me. While I don't agree with Jacob's on the abduction phenomeana (because I don't know what to think) I understand where he's going. Given that approach, why doesn't Jacob's see that there's something more to the Contactees than just a bunch of kooks?

Back to the McMenamins Hotel Oregon. Most of the rooms are just a room, bathroom down the hall. There are some rooms available with bathrooms, but those were booked long ago. Thank god the bathroom (very large, with showers, etc.) was right across our room. There's free Wi Fi, always a good sign. If you sign up for the UFO Festival package, it includes dinner and breakfast (good food), tickets to the speakers, two glass tumblers with the UFO Festival logo, and silly and fun bobbing things to wear on your head (yes, of course I wore mine!) There were also book displays, including Peter Robbin's collection of vintage UFO books and comics, a masquerade ball, and the alien parade the next day.

The McMennimmin's do beautiful and charming work; they retain the original features of the places they buy, and add their own touch. If you live in Oregon, or visit, try to explore one of their places. (The McMenamins in Troutdale is amazing.) Doors and walls are painted with original paintings of local artists. Many of the paintings, quotes painted on the walls, murals, etc. have to do with the history of the place. For example, two of the paintings on two of the doors are of Mrs. Trent, surrounded by her rabbits, looking up at a UFO, and one of the reporters who first wrote about the case.

Later that night we went one of the four bars inside the Hotel Oregon. It was much quieter there and the only people there were Jacbos and Davenport and several others at a long table. The next morning at breakfast Davenport came down and sat in the booth next to ours. We hadn't signed up for the full two day package, so didn't attend the morning panel. I would have liked to have stayed for that, but being it was short notice we had to get back to Eugene.

As rushed and crazy as it was, and despite the "doh!" moments, like no camera, etc. it was well worth it. We both plan to go next year, and this time sign up for the full two night package. And sign up early!

Edited to add: We reserved a room (no bath, those are already booked for next year!) for two nights. See you there next year.

McMenimins UFO logoimage source:

Peter Robbins:

McMinnville UFO Festival:

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