The Country’s Top UFO Festivals

Ben and Grace Sanders, from Houston,, compete in the alien costume contest during the annual Roswell UFO Festival. Brian Cahn Zuma Press

Ben and Grace Sanders, from Houston,, compete in the alien costume contest during the annual Roswell UFO Festival.

It’s been nearly 70 years since an unidentified flying object crashed onto a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico. The debate rages on today as thousands of UFO advocates attend festivals to meet up with like-minded theorists.

Contact in the Desert

Taking place June 3-6 in Joshua Tree, California, this is a weekend of exploration into extraterrestrial life, ancient aliens, human origins, crop circles, UFO sightings, contact experiences and the “need to know.” It features a panel of speakers, movies after dark, night vision experiences and contact training in the field.

Roswell UFO Festival

Attended by more than 7,000 people annually, the Roswell UFO Festival 2016 (June 30-July 3) features a parade, alien costume contest, speakers and authors, live entertainment and family activities.

On a July 1947 evening, a mysterious disc-shaped object fell upon a ranch 30 miles north of Roswell, and the town has become a mecca for UFO followers since. Roswell Army Air Field issued a statement claiming to have recovered a crashed “flying disc,” but changed its story to call it a weather balloon in a front-page article in the Roswell Daily Record.

Utah UFO Festival

Cedar City, Utah, is hosting the inaugural Utah UFO Festival June 17-18 with lectures from experts on UFO topics, a history of UFO sightings in Utah and Nevada, and speakers who claim to have been abducted by aliens, including Travis Walton, who inspired the film Fire in the Sky.

The festival is the brain trust of brothers Joseph and Nathan Cowlishaw, who founded Anomaly Conservatory in 2014 with a mission of changing the social stigma surrounding UFOs and answering the burning question: Are we alone in this universe?

Whether you believe or not, it’s OK to open your mind to the possibilities, Nathan says. “I’ve had three sightings [or] close encounters since 2013. I grew up going out into the hills of Southern Utah as a young LDS kid. Having a few of those experiences makes people like me obsessive to find the truth.”

Cowlishaw says he wants to nurture UFO folklore that has become so ingrained in Southwestern culture. “It’s part of our history, and we believe human beings need to start watching the skies more,” he says.

The festival includes a tour of Area 51 and the Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada.

International UFO Congress

Scheduled for Feb. 17-19, 2017, in Fountain Hills, Arizona, this event holds the Guinness World Record for largest UFO convention. Activities include a film festival, experience sessions (sighting, visitation or abduction), night-vision skywatch and a cocktail party.

McMenamins UFO Festival

Every May since 1999, UFO enthusiasts have descended upon the quiet Willamette Valley town of McMinnville, about an hour from Portland, Oregon, to attend this festival that’s second only to Roswell in popularity.

About a month before the legendary Roswell crash, pilot Kenneth Arnold claimed to have seen a fleet of silvery objects flying near Mount Rainier. Three years later, Evelyn and Paul Trent of McMinnville snapped what are widely considered to be the most credible photos of “flying saucers.”

This festival boasts the Ground Zero radio show, a parade, alien pet costume contest, live music, fun run, breakfast and luncheon speakers and specially brewed Alienator Ale.

Massachusetts UFO Festival

Commemorate the nation’s first UFO incident to be inducted as factual history on August 6 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, which was affirmed by a citation signed by the governor of Massachusetts on November 3, 2015.

The original “Star Child Skull” artifact will be on display for the first time on the East Coast, and festivalgoers can have their picture taken at the 5,000-pound monument dedicated to a 1969 UFO sighting in Sheffield, Massachusetts. –Hubble Ray Smith

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