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Thousands attend McMenamins' event with expert speakers, parade and street fair on Saturday, May 19.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - An alien carrying a trident hitches a ride on a tractor during the McMenamins' UFO Festival parade on 4th Street on Saturday, May 20 in McMinnville.The truth is out there — it's in McMinnville, actually.

Now in its 19th year, McMenamins' UFO Festival continues to draw thousands of committed believers to Yamhill County for a three-day event featuring alien experts, an out-of-this-world parade and a lively street fair.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - An alien waves to passersby during the 19th annual McMenamins UFO Festival on Saturday, May 20 in McMinnville. The celebration is based on the black-and-white photographs of a "flying saucer" taken by farmer Paul Trent in a field nine miles southwest of McMinnville in 1950.

The photos were reprinted in Life magazine and many newspapers, though buzz-killing forensic specialists and some journalists insist the photos merely show a metal disk or toy hanging from power lines. Trent and his wife never wavered from their claim that the pictures are genuine.

Among the faithful is Dave Stevens, who has lived on a ranch near the alleged sightings for more than 30 years. He instructs a reporter to take Highway 18 to Farmer John's Produce stand, then "just look up."

"I'm waiting for them to come back and take me," he tells the Tribune on Saturday, May 19.

Stevens was one of many in attendance to coat his dome in aluminium foil — his contraption look like a miniature umbrella hat — though others use tin-covered baseball hats, dunce caps and even a spinning propeller beanie to block any nefarious signals.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Logan, a second-grader from Scappoose, shows off his ray gun during the McMenamins' UFO Festival on Saturday, May 20, in McMinnville. "I'm an alien something. An alien with a bucket helmet," explains Logan, a seven-year-old boy visiting from Scappoose wearing green face paint and a pail over his head. The second-grader believes in aliens "not that much, but kind of."

While the confirmed existence of extraterrestrials remains up in the air, no one's doubting that many people see Unidentified Flying Objects floating through the sky. Scientists maintain that regular folks are often befuddled by everyday phenomena like shooting stars, clouds, low-flying planes and satellites.

Others aren't so sure.

"All of the sudden it zigged, it zagged, and took off," describes David Schneider, a Gresham resident who recently published a book on the subject. "We went inside. It wasn't a plane."

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - David Schneider of Gresham published a book of fiction, 'Hoaxes,' that describes the aftermath of the crash in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947.   Schneider's memory of a real-life encounter happened many years ago, when he was a 10-year-old boy camping out on his deck near Summit Drive in Lake Oswego.

He believes modern technology including fiber optics, circuit boards and Kevlar are the fruits of "reverse engineering" from an alien's crash landing in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. The official narrative is that it was a cluster of U.S. Army surveillance balloons.

From Schneider's perspective, the good news is that the spacemen are here only for observation and maybe a few abductions, because if they were here for anything more monstrous it "probably would have occurred by now."

"The media still chuckles," he admits. "It's not just 'I believe because I want to.' I've done research as well."

An entirely unscientific poll by the Tribune suggests most attendees here believe in life on other planets, with many respondents saying the odds are high simply because of the vast number of known stars. It's up to more than 100 billion in our galaxy alone, according to the latest count.

"The odds that there is only us is not in our favor," notes Shayna Vest, a resident of the Sylvan Hills in Southwest Portland dressed as an alien from the planet Meepzorp.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Desiree Neel, of Dundee, appeared at McMenamin's UFO Festival dressed as an alien from the planet Cheron."It's a pretty big universe," highlights Desiree Neel, a Dundee local costumed as a half-black, half-white creature from the planet Cheron in "Star Trek."

"I'd love to meet one," adds Kimm Minkler, who grew up in Hillsboro and now lives in Washington State. She's back at the fest for her fourth time because it's the only place where "I can hide behind a mask."

Mike Que of Southeast Portland is dressed as a big-brained baddie from the 1996 sci-fi flick "Mars Attacks!" He's seen a UFO, but isn't 100 percent convinced aliens are real.

"It was a couple of lights in the sky," he says. "I'm a scientist. I need some evidence."

Need more proof? Here's a collection of photos our reporter took at the scene:

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - A big-headed alien tromps along to beat of marching band during the McMenamins UFO Festival parade on Saturday, May 20 in McMinnville.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Dave Stevens lives on a ranch not far from where the original McMinnville 'flying saucer' photos were taken in 1950. 'Just look up,' he instructs a reporter.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Kimm Minkler, who grew up in Hillsboro, returned to McMenamins' UFO Festival for her fourth time because it's a place where she 'can hide behind a mask.'

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Sisters Maggie King (left) and Sylvia Worrix are dressed as Purple People Eaters.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Scott and Sharon Bohl are among the aliens attending McMinnville's UFO Fest.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Shayna Vest traveled from the Sylvan hills to visit McMenamins UFO Festival, though she's actually from the planet Meepzorp.

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