Whether you're a devoted believer in extraterrestrial life, captivated by New Hampshire's historical UFO sightings, or simply intrigued by the unknown, the Exeter UFO Festival is a must-attend event. This unique festival is grounded in the lore of the Incident at Exeter—a highly publicized UFO sighting that occurred on September 3, 1965, in the neighboring town of Kensington. The event involved a local teenager and two police officers and has since become a touchstone for UFO enthusiasts. The festival not only offers a deep dive into lectures exploring topics like the Incident and more for the true believers but also boasts an out-of-this-world feature—an Alien Costume & Alien Pet Parade. Judged by an actual 'alien,' prizes are awarded for the most celestial costumes, and every pet goes home a winner! We interviewed Pamela Gjettum, coordinator of the pet parade, to learn more about this fun event. (Editor's note: Some responses have been lightly edited for readability.)
The Exeter UFO Festival sprang from the need for a fresh, engaging fundraiser and has since become a local phenomenon, featuring activities ranging from academic lectures to fun costume parades.
The pet parade has minimal restrictions, encouraging creativity, but pet owners are advised to know their animal’s tolerance levels for the sake of safety.
Can you tell us about the inception of the Alien Costume & Alien Pet Parade and Contest? What inspired the Exeter Area Kiwanis Club to include this event in the UFO Festival?
The Exeter area Kiwanis, like most modern service clubs, was in a serious slump a few years back. Our fundraisers were golf tournaments and road races, which barely broke even and were a lot of work. After one such debacle one of our members suggested a UFO festival as Roswell did so well. We did have the "Incident at Exeter" (which actually happened in Kensington but so what). And so, we tried it. Initially, local businesses were skeptical, but the event turned out to be a success! Now, businesses compete to feature the most extraterrestrial window displays, from alien beer to underwear.
Could you describe the categories or criteria for the costume and pet parade? What makes a winning alien costume or pet?
We started the costume contest as so many people - children and adults -showed up in costume anyway. We have everything from pets in simple antennae to elaborate tinfoil suits. Everyone wins a prize, from costumed kids to pets, even the lizards and the goldfish.
What safety measures are in place for the pets participating in the parade? Are there any restrictions or guidelines for pet owners?
Safety isn't overly regulated; if you think your pet is up for it, go for it. All dogs must be on leashes, and cleaning up after them is mandatory per town ordinance. Beyond dogs, other pets are pretty much on their own. We've never had an issue, likely because our participants are sensible about what their pets can tolerate.
Finally, for those who have never attended the Exeter UFO Festival before, what would you say to entice them to come and experience this one-of-a-kind event?
The festival serves two audiences: The true believers, who never move from the town hall and inhale the lectures on things like the possible physics of a spaceship, and the curious who just come for a fun weekend. The costumes are fun, the curious get to see the "Incident at Exeter" site, and the Kiwanis Club is able to double our scholarships and expand our services to local kids - we just handed out over 200 free bicycle helmets at a police safety day for example. What do I believe? I believe something happened back in 1965, but not sure what. I believe the Kiwanis would have folded by now if we hadn't started the festival. And I believe the festival is a thousand times more fun than a road race. Come and see for yourself!
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