On Sept. 8, the foothills town of Marion will host the state’s biggest-ever Bigfoot festival, a sasquatch tribute expected to draw thousands.
Cryptid enthusiasm runs so high in Marion that resident storyteller Tammy Sanabria can relate the tale of three separate sightings — the oldest dating to her Great-Great-Aunt Hessie in the late 1800s.
“On the back side of Beech Mountain,” she said in a phone interview, “this big, old hairy arm reached in the window and tried to grab her baby. She screamed real loud and her papa grabbed a shotgun and killed it in a ravine. There weren’t any circuses. It wasn’t a gorilla. They buried it.”
But this free festival in Marion, where Bigfoot has been proclaimed as the town’s “official animal,” is only the latest example in an explosion of shaggy beast enthusiasm statewide.
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The city of Sanford just hosted the Tar Heel Bigfoot Lectures at the Cooperative Extension Center, a $25 event drawing sasquatch investigators from around the state.
On Nov. 3, just outside Sanford at the Deep River Camelback bridge, a second festival will celebrate all things Boojum — a nickname in some Tar Heel counties for an ape-mountain man hybrid.
Turns out, Sasquatch sightings abound around Sanford, according to EnvironmentaLEE.org, a group of Lee County volunteers fighting fracking and coal ash dumping.
As of last week, the national Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization counted 96 sightings across North Carolina, including three in Johnston, Orange and Chatham counties.
As festival time draws near, here is a look at the state’s growing Bigfoot fever.
“The more we move into their territory,” said Sanabria, 55, “the more they’re having to come out, and we’re seeing more of them.”
Bigfoot Sites Aplenty
The state already offers cryptid fans a Bigfoot museum in Littleton, about 70 miles northeast of Raleigh.
Curator Stephen Barcelo assembled a collection of blurry photographs and plaster footprints extensive enough to pull tourists off Interstate 95 to his remote Halifax County town, where he knows of three Bigfoot sightings — one of them a block away.
“I’ve never seen Bigfoot,” Barcelo told The News & Observer in 2016. “I’ve found prints. I definitely believe there’s something out there. Some kind of hybrid ape, maybe.”
The small town of Troy in Montgomery County, just outside Uwharrie National Forest, has tried to position itself as base camp for Bigfoot exploration, according to The Courier-Tribune in Asheboro.
Michael Greene, a Bigfoot enthusiast from Salisbury, has led Bigfoot treks through Uwharrie and once captured a thermal image of a 7-foot stalker in the woods.
“Usually,” he told the N&O in 2011, “nothing at all happens. But you hear roaring in the bushes. They’ll pitch rocks into camp, but they never hit anybody.”
And last year, a Marion woman created her own brand of Bigfoot-attracting spray, the Charlotte Observer reported.
“How do you know it works?” Allie Megan Webb asked Observer reporter Mark Price in 2017. “That’s a tough question. I guess I could ask how do you know it doesn’t work?”
For the festival, Sanabria had hoped to share some of her homespun Bigfoot stories, all of which take place in Avery or Watauga counties. But she has learned that she will have no official slot for telling them.
But find her in the crowd among the cryptoid tourists and she’ll be happy to share.
“There’s one story of a mama and a baby Sasquatch,” she said, “and they’re picking apples.”
The WNC Bigfoot Festival Sept. 8, in Marion features pictures with Bigfoot, a Bigfoot calling contest and more. Find details at facebook.com/wncbigfootfestival.
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