This Saturday I’m taking my wife and two nieces to the UFO Festival in McMinnville, Oregon.
We’ll take in the alien parade, the alien pet costume contest, stroll through the vendors and hope to even eat a “Spaceburger.”
And get this, I’m getting paid to go down there. PAID! We’ll, not really since I’m salary, but it is part of my job thanks to a short conversation not long ago.
A few months ago my friend Steve Craig was telling me about how twice a year, sunlight streams through the peaks of Mount Rainier, through a craig (coincidental?), and beams down onto the Yelm Prairie. He took a pic of it from his property and it was amazing, enough so that I ran it on the front page. He mentioned someone should build a Stonehenge-type structure to capture the light twice a year. Our conversation meandered. Boy did it meander.
I mentioned that this summer marks the 70th anniversary of what many consider was the first official report of unidentified flying objects, right at our own Mount Rainier. Pilot Kenneth Arnold, flying from Chehalis to Yakima on June 24, 1947, upon landing said he saw nine shiny “flying saucers” zipping past Mount Rainier at speeds he estimated of 1,200 miles an hour. This resulted in nationwide headlines and is credited with the first of the modern era of UFO sightings.
Without a pre-thought I blurted out, “We should create a UFO fest right here in Yelm to mark the anniversary.”
He’s about as dimwitted as I am, and embraced the idea. I took it to my leadership team at our newspaper chain almost as a joke. They literally called the idea “brilliant” and “genius” and offered full support. Through our three papers and a tourism magazine, we’ll reach about 250,000 readers in Southwest Washington.
Cameron Jayne, Triad Theater director, joined the fray, volunteering to be the nonprofit host of the UFO festival, complete with a slate of speakers at her theater during the event. We flew the idea past Margaret Clapp, owner of Prairie Park, and she offered to allow the festival to take place on the vacant field in front of Yelm Cinemas. We talked to Mayor JW Foster. He almost entered another dimension he loved the idea so much and gave it a beaming thumbs up, along with City Administrator Michael Grayum.
We agreed on an alien parade and pet costume contest, and live music throughout the day.
The final piece that solidified the decision by both the Triad Theater and the Nisqually Valley News to put the festival on came in the form of Cory Kolilis, owner of Puget Sound Entertainment based in Yelm when he became part of our team. He’s an expert, a professional, in inflatable games for all ages, DJs, bands, event rentals, karaoke, video, audio — basically event planning and presentation. He brings a spaceship bouncy toy for the kids into the mix — we’re calling the kid zone “Area 51.”
After much discussion, our group decided to put on — get this — “UFOFest and Cosmic Symposium,” right in the heart of Yelm on July 28-30, both at the Triad Theater and Prairie Park.
This Saturday I’ll be cruising for vendor leads and entertainment possibilities.