Flocks of people dressed in alien costumes and sharing stories in a quiet Willamette Valley town an hour from Portland, Oregon, Pacific Northwest is not a rare occurrence, in fact, it happens every year. 

The UFO Festival in McMinnville is one of the largest festivals celebrating and supporting the many people who have experienced UFO sightings and who share their stories with the world. While the festival’s location might seem strange, it isn’t, as the Pacific Northwest has one of the highest concentrations of UFO sightings in all the world.

The festival was founded in 1999 after a long history of UFO sightings in Oregon. In 1947, one of the first and most explosive events took place, when pilot Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine “saucer-like aircraft flying in formation”. He estimated the objects were traveling about 1,200 miles per hour, a feat that nearly doubled the maximum speed a turbojet-powered aircraft achieved at that time. 

In 1950, one of the most famous pictures was taken during a UFO sighting, as farmers Evelyn and Paul Trent witnessed a disc-shaped object hovering overhead. As it seemingly sailed away into the sky, the couple took a photograph, documenting the unbelievable experience. It’s that very photograph that sparked the festival back in 1999, and it has only grown in the two decades since being founded. 

Photo of UFO in McMinnville in 1950

According to Komo News, Washington had 194 reports of UFO sightings, making it one of the most concentrated places for UFO sightings in America. This number has seen consistent growth, as the state had 160 in 2018. In conjunction with the 110 reports Oregon citizens made to the National UFO Reporting Center, the two states make up a large percentage of the sightings in the U.S., solidifying the Pacific Northwest as one of the “hubs” for these unidentified aerial phenomena (as termed by the U.S. military). 

All of the reports are indexed by the National UFO Reporting Center. Washington’s reports can be found here (updated for 2021) and Oregon’s list can be found here. 

There is no exact evidence as to why this area has such a large volume of UFO sightings. Perhaps clear skies play a role, whereas big cities are drastically polluted by light. However, there is no concrete evidence that points to any direct correlation. The question, however, of ‘why’, is not as important to those living in the area as ‘what’. 

According to studies, the belief in intelligent alien life is on the rise in recent years, up to 41.4 percent of people (who participated in the study). In just two years, the percentage has gone up 14 percentage points, perhaps indicating that the more sightings that occur and are reported, correlate to the increased belief. 

There is more to the UFO sightings than belief, as it turns out. In Oregon, UFOs and aliens have become a part of the culture. Individuals often chase UFOs, traveling to the Pacific Northwest to experience for themselves the remarkable events. Festivals, organizations, attractions- they all point to an increase in support for UFO sightings and a concentrated effort to promote the truth. What that truth is- no one seems to know just yet.  

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