The first Yelm UFO Fest is set to launch this weekend, and organizers are preparing to welcome visitors from beyond. Or at least beyond Yelm.
The festival, which is free to the public, will feature more than 15 musical performances, a beer garden with a specially bottled Alien Pale Ale brewed by Olympia’s Fish Brewing Company, and “out of this world” food vendors, according to Cameron Jayne, director of arts at Yelm’s Triad Arts Theater, one of the organizations that organized the festival.
“It’s gonna be like Woodstock,” Jayne said. “This is kinda like a Yelmstock.”
The UFO Fest runs Friday through Sunday in a field next to Yelm Cinemas at Prairie Park. Seating is festival-style, so if you plan to enjoy the musical acts and other performers, organizers recommend bringing a blanket or chair.
If that sounds a little too down-to-earth, the festival also features the Cosmic Symposium, a speaker series at Triad Arts Theater that Jayne says will provide a platform for alternative thinkers and scientists who veer from the mainstream.
Tickets to the symposium are $250 for a three-day pass and between $100 and $150 per day. Proceeds from the symposium fund speakers’ travel and boarding costs, according to Jayne.
JZ Knight, president of Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment in Yelm and known for her claims that she channels a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit named Ramtha, also will speak as part of the festival. Knight’s speech will be held at Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, and admission is $50.
The festival was organized through a partnership between The Triad Arts Theater, Nisqually Valley News, and Puget Sound Entertainment. Michael Wagar, publisher at Nisqually Valley News, and his friend Steve Craig hatched the idea during a casual conversation. Then offers to help began pouring in.
Jayne offered to host — a UFO fest was right up her alley and the Triad could use a fundraiser. Cory Kolilis at Puget Sound Entertainment offered his festival set-up expertise. The City of Yelm was supportive. It was perfect “synchronicity,” as several organizers described it.
“Everybody just came together and every week it kinda got a little bit bigger,” said Michael Wagar, publisher at Nisqually Valley News. “The pieces just fell together in a way I never could have imagined.”
One of those pieces was the desire to commemorate the 70th anniversary of pilot Kenneth Arnold’s 1947 sighting of nine shiny, disc-like flying objects near Mount Rainier during his flight from Chehalis to Yakima.
Arnold initially believed the objects were military aircraft. But after receiving no confirmation from the government about the seemingly supersonic “flying saucers,” as the media called them in coverage of the event, he decided what he saw was not from earth.
"Being a natural-born American, if it's not made by our science or our army air forces, I am inclined to believe it's of an extraterrestrial origin,” Arnold said in an interview several years after the sighting.
Arnold’s sighting is widely regarded as the birth of the modern fascination with UFOs — a fascination that festival organizers say extends to Yelm, the original gateway to Mount Rainier.
“We have a community here that’s sort of open to the unknown, so to speak,” Craig said.
Whether you’re among the 45 percent of Americans who agree that extraterrestrials have visited earth, according to a 2015 Ipsos poll, or you’re more of a skeptic, Yelm UFO Fest organizers hope there will be something at the festival for you.
The performers all hail from the Pacific Northwest and include Olympia’s social justice-oriented Artesian Rumble Arkestra, Tenino’s husband-and-wife duo Kissy Flick and the Fabulous Downey Brothers, who “make Devo look like they’re from a PTA meeting,” according to Jayne.
Las Vegas-based sculptor Jojo Jilbert also will appear at the festival, where he plans to create a scrap metal sculpture of a UFO on site.
Jayne hopes that the UFO Fest will provide an opportunity for people of “all walks of life” to come together, dress up in their best alien garb, and celebrate being “a little out there.”
“Yelm is coming out of the closet, baby,” Jayne said.
Yelm UFO Fest Schedule
Friday, 8 p.m.-midnight
- Opening Ceremony with “Close Encounters” Theme
- Nessu Dorma by Bob Corl
- Festival kickoff with Mayor J.W. Foster
- Kelley Birdeau song to the Celestials
- Urban Shaman
- Michael Apau, Poet
- Skywatch with James Gilliland
Saturday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
- Warren Schaffer Choir
- Urban Shaman
- Parade (noon) led by Artesian Rumble Arkestra
- Astro Kirby and the Moon Patrol
- Askew Trio
- The Science of Deduction
- Letters From Traffic
- The Fabulous Downey Brothers
- Outdoor Movie on the JumboTron — “ET”
Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
- Cindy Schorno
- Giovanna De Luna
- Clinton Dogger Mullins
- David Wayne
- Kissy Flick
- Kenny Peck and the Smoky Jack Band
- Primal Union