There was the parade marshall, waving to the people lining both sides of Third Street. The Coneheads danced by, and the dogs with their foil-tipped ears, meant to look like aliens. The women with the UFOs around their mid-sections – real and imagined.

Welcome to the annual UFO Festival held every May in McMinnville, Oregon, to honor the famous Trent UFO photographs, taken by a local farmer and his wife in 1950 to possibly show an alien spacecraft.

I tip my hat to the owners of McMenamins Hotel in that town, which created the UFO Festival out of memory. The parade at 1 p.m. the Saturday of the two-day celebration, where everyone comes from all the nearby towns and some drive from further reaches because they’ve heard about it.

The stores that turn their displays alien – clothing mannequins adorned with foil ears and purple or green disks around their middles. Signs bearing “on the parade route!” – indicating the stores ideal for browsing before and after the festivities.

A brilliant marketing ploy. Possibly the most brilliant one I’ve ever encountered.

McMinnville is a sleepy town in the wine country outside Portland, Oregon. It’s charming, with a few good restaurants and boutiques. Trees overhang the downtown streets and it’s not far from sprawling vineyards in the lazy sun.

But every May, McMinnville is packed. Surrounding inns see a burst of guest activity. The restaurants, the wineries, the shops all get a boost. And under the tent outside McMenamins, the locals and those from far away buy sweatshirts, T-shirts, dog snuggies and headbands with floppy antennae for way too much money – all emblazoned with the town name they aren’t likely to forget.

What a way to drum up business for a town that most people would’ve simply forgotten.

Anyone can do this. It’s just that most people don’t. Create a holiday for your business, your line of work, your city, your street – and see what type of attention you can generate. Of course, it all comes down to the marketing.

There are thousands of views of UFO-McMinnville postings on YouTube. UFO Magazine and Google have a million options when you type in those two words. That doesn’t happen like magic. It’s the spin doctors, like me, that make it so.

Go to it. Make a difference. And let everyone know you’re here.


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