Midmorning on Friday, May 18th, Michael King and I left Longview, WA, in his overloaded “Elephant” truck/van/thing and made our way to McMinnville, where the 19th Annual UFO Festival had kicked off the day before. We arrive to partially cloudy skies, but no rain. We found a parking space, made use of the portable bathrooms, and then set about constructing the Art-Horse Studios’ booth!
The vending and such ran from 4:00 P.M. until 9:00 P.M. on Friday, and we did a brisk business. We ALSO saw a number of interesting folks in “festival” attire—snarky pop-culture t-shirts, aluminum-foil hats, and some folks in full-on space costumes. One little old lady (dressed in green face-paint and weenie bopper antennas) introduced me to her “husband,” who she pushed around in a stroller, and her adopted daughter (who was creepy as HELL. Babies aren’t supposed to be blue—even if they’re from outer space…) I snapped a picture and backed away, quickly, as the woman started talking to the baby doll…
Anyway, the neighboring vendors were all very friendly and helpful, and most of the thronging crowds were there to have a good time and enjoy the fun. By 8:00 P.M., we started prepping to leave for the night. We’d had decent sales, ate some great chicken-strips from one of the food booths, and were SERIOUSLY ready for a bit of rest. Because we were so tired, we decided not to bother packing everything up, and instead just pulled the hanging bits into the tent, put the walls on the sides of the booth, and zipped up for the night, figuring everything would be fine until we returned in the morning. This is what we’d done at the Yelm UFO Festival last summer. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a poor decision.
Neither Mike nor I are good sleepers, so we were up early and back at the festival site, coffee in hand, by about 7:00 A.M. After finding a parking spot, we headed for the booth, but spotted one of the shirts that Mike had designed and printed laying on the ground under a bench about fifty yards from our tent. This did not bode well… We proceeded with mounting dread to the tent, unzipped it, and had our suspicions confirmed: we’d been burgled in the night. As we were setting up for the day, Mike did a quick mental inventory, and guesses that whoever had paid us a visit got away with a couple hundred dollars in merchandise. (At least, he said, they’d like the designs well enough to steal them!)
Now the “interesting” thing about this burglary is that we have a pretty good idea who might have been involved. Within minutes of arriving at the booth and starting to set up, a fellow in a yellow hoodie and a ball cap showed up carrying a backpack, and he sat down on the edge of a brick planter-box about twenty feet from our booth. He’s twitching and wide eyed and staring, and with my keen observation skills, I noticed that our black-light was sticking out of his backpack. I mentioned this to the man, and he starts talking—and spins a wild tale about getting dropped off in town about 3:30 A.M., and his friend, who he doesn’t really know that good, a guy named “Casper,” wants him to hold this blacklight for him. And he doesn’t want it, of course, but he agrees to hold it for Casper… Blah, blah, blah… He also has one of our shirts in his pack, which he claims he found on a sidewalk a couple of blocks away.
After “UNTRUE CONFESSIONS” goes on for FAR TOO LONG—the guy won’t shut up, tells us his whole life story, how he’s trying to get himself together and get a job, etc., this other guy rides up on a bike WEARING one of Mike’s shirts! Mike askes the guy where he got the shirt, and the guy says he’s had it for a while. I said, NO. Mike MADE that shirt and we know who we sold them to. Then the guy says, “Well, I didn’t break into your tent and steal it…” Mike asks, “So where did you get it?” And the guy gets indignant and says he won’t be accused of stealing, and he rides away. The other guy says he has to go use the bathroom, and he slides off as well. He says he’ll be right back—and we never see him again, either. My head can’t quite wrap around all this kind of shit…
At that point, we called the McMinnville police station to TRY to report the burglary, but they aren’t open on the weekends. (Crime only happens Monday through Friday in McMinnville, I guess.) Mike left a message, told them where our both was and asked them to come down, so we could file a report and show them the photos we had of the suspicious parties. The police NEVER arrived, and no report was ever filed.
ANYWAY, despite the rather unpleasant start to the day, once the festivities got going (at 10:00 A.M.,) the negative fell away and the fun started. Before things got TOO busy, I decided to go walkabout and take some photos. Most of the shops along 3rd were decked out for the festival, and there were cool sculptures and chalk drawings and such all over the place.
One of the shops that I stopped at was The Vortex, owned by a gentleman named Bruce, who used to run a cool “Alternative” record store in Longview, WA, back in the 1990s. He remembered me (I’d worked for him for about a year) and introduced me to the other guy working in his shop. “This is Rick Yates—you’ve seen his artwork online!” he says. (Wow… I didn’t know I had anyone who had “seen” my stuff in McMinnville, besides Bruce. We’re still friends on the Faceboot!) Anyway, if you’re near McMinnville and want to buy some cool records, look up The Vortex! He even still has some extremely cool grunge-era concert posters on the walls, with some AWESOME fluorescent colors, that you can look at—or BUY, if you’re rich enough. I’m poor—so I grabbed a used CD by The Legendary Pink Dots out of the bargain bin! (I WANTED the green vinyl THROBBING GRISTLE record, but I wasn’t authorized to spend very much money on this trip…)
The rest of the festival was extremely busy, and there were moments when Mike and I were almost overwhelmed trying to help multiple people all at once. (Perhaps a festival like that might need THREE workers next time…) The sales numbers were good—even taking into account our unintended donation to the local street denizens. Mike agreed that the event was successful enough to warrant a return next year (although we’re going to load everything into the van before leaving next time.) We didn’t see any lights in the sky or experience any missing time, unfortunately, but the carnival atmosphere and friendly people made the trip fun anyway. Looking forward to the next UFO Fest in Yelm at the end of July!*
*I should probably mention, once again, that I am a skeptic when it comes to UFOs and aliens and most other fringe topics. I was, however, a cultural anthropology major as an undergrad, and I still LOVE the stories that the FOLK tell themselves. I’m no longer an academic, and I’m certainly not a believer in the paranormal, but I still ENJOY all this stuff and try to collect as many of the tales as I can, and I often make use of fringe topics in my writing and art—but you probably knew that! Just thought I’d reiterate my position, so as not to entertain on FALSE PRETENSES!
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)
SUPPORT INDEPENDENT FOLKS WHO ARE JUST MAKING STUFF BECAUSE THEY LOVE IT!!!