Last Saturday, I parked in a crowded field near the Cumberland County fairgrounds and got in line to buy an admission ticket to their first-ever Bigfoot Festival. When I handed my five-dollar bill to the lady taking money, I told her I sure hoped Sasquatch was around.
She smiled and winked. “He is,” she said. “And the good news is that he likes mature women.”
Too excited about being there to be offended at being thought a mature woman, I made my way toward the outdoor arena. And there he stood, seven feet tall with grotesque hands and feet and a shaggy coat, its hair red as mine, signing autographs and having his picture taken. Sasquatch himself. My heart leapt with joy. All my life, I’ve wanted to meet a Bigfoot. Now I was snuggled up next to one while a stranger snapped our photo with my cell phone.
The grandstand was filled with spectators listening intently to a man on a moveable stage. He wasn’t a Bigfoot. Quite the contrary. This was Matt Moneymaker, president and founder of Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO) and star of the long-running reality TV show “Finding Bigfoot.” He told the crowd that, though he’s not from around here, he’d heard that the best place to spot a Bigfoot was on Black Mountain.
I turned to the man sitting next to me, who said his name was Jim. “You ever spotted a Bigfoot on Black Mountain?”
He shook his head. “I don’t live here. I live in Dodson Branch.”
“You ever spotted one in Dodson Branch?”
Not yet, Jim said. But he told me he used to camp way up on top of a mountain in Colorado and that he’d heard Bigfoots there plenty of times. “They scream just like a woman being murdered. You ought never to go outside there after dark without a large caliber weapon.” I thanked him for the advice and stood up to continue on my way. “You might want to be back here at noon,” he said. “That’s when Buck and Huck are going to speak.”
“Buck and Huck?”
“The stars of ‘Mountain Monsters’ on TV,” Jim said. “I never miss an episode.”
The fairgrounds were filled with vendors hawking everything from hot dogs and funnel cakes to Bigfoot caps and t-shirts. There were Bigfoot posters and stuffed animals and even a two-foot tall Bigfoot statue holding a roll of toilet paper. “You sell a lot of these?” I asked the woman in charge of that booth. “Goodness yes,” she said. “Even at fifty dollars, it’s hard to keep them in stock.”
I met folks even more interesting than Jim. There was Lori, who lives in Chattanooga and is a BFRO investigator. When I told her I’m from Cookeville, she beamed. “You’re close to some of the best Bigfoot hunting grounds in Tennessee,” she said. “I lead expeditions to Standing Stone State Park real often.”
Best of all was Scott, who lives in Crossville and who told me he regularly interacts with an entire family of Bigfoots on his property. Though he’s never actually seen them, he’s certain it’s they who eat the fruit he puts out. (Scott’s Bigfoots like apples and grapes but not oranges or bananas.) When he leaves marbles divided by color in separate bowls, the Bigfoots come in the night and mix the marbles up. Once, as he sat by a campfire at three o’clock in the morning, he saw several glow sticks being waved in the air at the edge of the woods. “It was my Bigfoot family, no doubt about it,” Scott said. He wasn’t sure where or how they got the glow sticks.
The bad news is I was so taken in by Scott’s story that I didn’t make it back to the arena in time for Buck and Huck. Maybe next year.
(October 23, 2021)