by Bernie O’Connor – email@example.com
For such a momentous event as the 75th anniversary of Arnold’s sighting this year, I wondered why there was scarcely a mention of June 24, 1947 in the UFO media? Where were all the commemorative YouTube videos, unseen footage, animation reconstructions, blogs and podcasts citing this important day in history? Even the Air Force officially recognizes pilot Arnold’s sighting of a formation of nine, unusually shaped aircraft flying in an erratic pattern over Mount Rainier, WA, as the original report that started the “Flying Saucer Craze.”
It’s also the news event that inspired an unnamed United Press reporter to coin the term “Flying Saucers.” The next day, Arnold’s story made the front page of almost every newspaper in the country. The phenomenon of the “Flying Saucers” officially entered American culture, and at supersonic speed.
So I ask you again, UFOlogy, where was all the hoopla? Where was all the excitement? And most importantly, where was the big party to celebrate Kenneth Arnold’s sighting? FITTINGLY, WHERE IT ALL BEGAN, IN CHEHALIS, WASHINGTON!
This is the town where Kenneth Arnold took to the skies on June 24th, 1947. Chehalis lies roughly 80 miles west of Mt. Rainier, where Arnold had his rendezvous with destiny. Back in 2019, Vince Ynzunza, a professional filmmaker and Videographer from the area, teamed up with Jason Mattson, Director of the Lewis County Historical Museum to create the first Chehalis Flying Saucer Party to honor Arnold’s sighting.
I wanted to find out more about the only party in the country celebrating June 24th. So I reached out to Vince Ynzunza, and he was kind enough to grant me a telephone interview.
Bernie: “Thank you for your time Vince, now please tell me, how did the UFO party come about?”
Vince: “Jason and I were talking and we both realized that Chehalis had forgotten the amazing story of Arnold and the important role Chehalis played in the birth of the ‘Flying Saucer Age.’ We also felt it would be a good community building event and a great fundraiser for the museum. Some people were a little skeptical of the idea at first. But it went on to be a great success for both the Museum and the community as a whole.”
After a pause because of the big lock downs, fast forward to 2022, and the Flying Saucer Party was back, bigger than before.
V: “Although we had a Party in 2019, we like to think of this year’s event as the first one, or say a relaunch, especially after the lock downs.”
B: “How does the Party come together?”
V: “Jason is primarily responsible for the organization of it, but I serve as a consultant on choosing guest speakers and the featured movie. This year we had Kenneth Arnold’s granddaughter, Shanelle Shanz, as one of our guest speakers, along with other local UFO experts. And we showed one of my favorite classic UFO movies, ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still,’ at McFiler’s Chehalis Theater.”
“We also had plenty of family fun events such as the return of the Saucer Drop. This is where we throw small flying saucers out to the crowd. Each saucer has a small gift written on it, which can be redeemed by the lucky catcher.
These gifts are donated by local businesses. When I say ‘return of the Saucer Drop,’ it really is. Chehalis used to do this during Crazy Days events back in the 60’s and 70’s. But these were dropped by the local fire house from their tall bucket ladder. We also have live bands, vendors and UFO exhibits and cartoons.”
“Speaking of local participation, it was much greater at this year’s party. The Chehalis Timberland Library held a UFO story time and in one of the downtown restaurants, the staff dressed up as aliens.”
B: “Why did you hold it on September 17th as opposed to June 24th, the actual day of Arnold’s sighting?”
V: “While Kenneth Arnold’s original sighting was on June 24th, we opted to go with a September date due to many competing festivals in the NW during the June/July months.”
B: “So, was this year’s party a success?”
V: “Yes! Even bigger than before. It helped the Museum, local businesses and the community spirit as a whole. The event also had follow-up coverage from the local TV stations.”
“We are already working on plans for the 2023 Party.”
Besides his busy schedule of creating educational and commercial videos, Vince regularly produces content, with the assistance of his Fortean side-kick, Alexandra Sullivan, for his YouTube Channel: Pacific NorthWEIRD. It’s the go to channel for local, and, wait, it’s in the name, WEIRD. While there, check out the excellent documentary: “When the Flying Saucers Arrived.” One of its segments covers the little known, daylight UFO “invasion” of Portland, WA on July 4th, 1947.
Also located in north Chehalis, is a beautiful and permanent mural commemorating Arnold’s sighting. “It’s there to let the Fortean world know that in Chehalis, Kenneth Arnold is not forgotten!” Vince said proudly.
If you’re interested in getting more information on the upcoming 2023 Saucer Party, go to: www.flyingsaucerparty.org/contact/ and get on the Museum’s email list. Next year it’s going to be expanded to two big days of Flying Saucer themed fun, films, music and UFO history.