Eureka Times-Standard Article

Bridgefest: 'Good food, good music and good flying saucers'

By Meghan Vogel
The Times-Standard August 22, 2004

BRIDGEVILLE -- Local legend has it that back in the far distant past of the mid-1990s, a flying saucer landed on the town's bridge with a special message for resident Mike Guerriero.

"Honor our landing here with a festival dedicated to flying saucers," the aliens instructed Guerriero.

Well, not really.

"I was inspired by the Kinetic Sculpture Race," said Guerriero, who came up with the idea on his own without the intervention of space beings. "I wanted to come up with a nice, fun game, and thought we could throw stuff off the bridge. And I wanted to make it so that anyone could enter."

People donned antennas and sported alien gear for the eighth annual Bridgefest on Saturday. The highlight of the arts and crafts fair was the flying saucer contest. Alien teams took turns throwing their homemade flying saucers off the town's bridge. Most of the festival took place on the bridge, which is no longer open to traffic, above the Van Duzen River.

Bridgefest began in 1992 as a benefit for the town's community center. Jessie Wheeler, whose family used to own Bridgeville, said the festival has been slowly outgrowing the bridge, and seems to be growing somewhat. Wheeler recalled how her grandfather held a rodeo in the 1920s, which brought people in from all parts of the rural southeastern Humboldt County. Now, she said, Bridgefest does the same.

"This brings people who live far apart all together," Wheeler said. "Some you see once a month, or once a week, and some you haven't seen since the last Bridgefest."

Wheeler was selling homemade buttons as a benefit for the community center, and commended St. Joseph Health System for its support of the festival since its inception. She was also proud to be wearing a button featuring a photograph of Ferndale artist Hobart Brown.

"It's awesome getting Hobart out here this year," she said.

Brown is the self-proclaimed "Glorious Founder" of the main inspiration for Bridgefest -- the world-famous Kinetic Sculpture Race from Arcata to Ferndale. Not to miss out on the fun, Brown assembled a team of extraterrestrial fliers, Team Hobart. Before launching their flying saucer off the bridge, Ellin Beltz and Lawrence L'Varado of Team Hobart bowed down to their alien craft, giving it encouraging "space noises." Their welded contraption came complete with an environmental impact statement.

Many aliens performed some sort of ritual before launching their flying saucers. Ken Perlenfein and his son Nicholas, 6, of Dinsmore, comprised alien team the Intergalactic Perlites.

"This is our final voyage," Perlenfein told his son before launching their homemade flying saucer off the bridge. "Let's hope we make it home to our home planet."

The craft used for the duo's space flight back home was made of all recycled materials.

"The aluminum foil comes from the burritos we had for dinner last night," explained Perlenfein.

The winning aliens of the day were the Sicircles, Timothy Carter of Fortuna and Bill Richards of Redway. The Sircircles broke the Bridgefest world record by launching their craft 85 yards off the bridge into the river rocks below. Carter attributed their success to the material and shape of their craft -- a circle cut from a metal road sign.

"We used earth materials," Carter said. "High-quality materials we can't find on our home planet."

Besides being famous for its aliens, Bridgeville caused a media sensation in 2002 when it became the first town to be put up for auction on eBay. An eBay sale fell through, however, and financial advisor Bruce Krall of Laguna Hills purchased the 82-acre town in May for $700,000.

Krall said he was delighted with the alien invasion.

"I love it," he said. "This is unique and creative, and I'm glad to see the people here have a good sense of humor."

Krall was busy Saturday afternoon greeting residents of his new town. He said he's planning on turning Bridgeville into a retreat, and is currently in the permitting process with the county.

"Eventually I'd like a holistic retreat center here, where people could come and learn," Krall said. "We could have artists on retreat, and holistic practitioner workshops, and a yoga center and a children's camp.

"Hopefully the aliens will bring some good ideas," he added. "This town has needed some alien ideas for a while."

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