It starts with simple adventure music. Then, eerie artwork and casts of feet varying in amount of toes and sizes decorate the second room. Finally in the last room two flannel-clad dummies with tousled hair look on with stony, mortified expressions of fear.
One armed with a Winchester rifle, and the other with an axe, they motionlessly push against the front door to their cabin. Two large, thick hairy arms appear in attempt to break down the door.
Expedition Bigfoot in Cherry Log, Georgia, consists of depictions and retellings of story after story of encounters with the mysterious Bigfoot, as well as representations of Bigfoot’s likeness, habitat and even feces. It isn’t just the feet that are big.
Expedition Bigfoot began three years ago and continues to operate in Cherry Log, but owner David Bakara and his team prepare to embark upon a new journey to Marion, this Sept. 14 for the second annual WNC Bigfoot Festival.
“We are putting together a mini-museum/traveling museum. It will be a two tent situation. We’re going to have one 10-by-10 tent filled with artifacts,” Bakara said. “We’ve got footprints, knuckle prints and photographs. The second tent is going to be merchandise. It’s going to be like a real museum.”
While the Expedition Bigfoot team and Bakara were not present at the inaugural Bigfoot Festival, Bakara said he certainly heard about it and particularly holds interest in the fellow researchers who attended.
“I heard there were some really cool researchers that had set up there. I’m excited to meet those guys,” the veteran and former Michigan resident said.
While the festival centers on Bigfoot, there weren’t as many Bigfoot-related tents or vendors as there could have been, according to Bakara and self-described armchair researcher Stefan Jagoe.
Jagoe and his wife run the Bigfoot NC Facebook page for sightings and discussions regarding Bigfoot. Jagoe himself attended the festival last year.
“Last year they had a lot of vendors, but only a few of them were even selling Bigfoot related items and there were even fewer educational vendors. Last year was the first one and so you’ve got to tweak it,” the retired police officer said.
The upcoming festival will bring in more focus on the educational aspects of Bigfoot, according to Jagoe. Educational tents set up by researchers like Bakara and the Expedition Bigfoot team, as well as the presence of notable speakers such as Cliff Barackman from Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot will be integral parts to this year’s festival.
The festival organizer and the founder of the Facebook group Bigfoot 911, John Bruner, ensures the Bigfoot festival not only focuses more on Bigfoot this year but he also prepares to handle the high volume turn out they experienced last year.
“We started a Facebook page, Bigfoot 911, and we have close to 12,000 members worldwide. What we wanted to do was have an event like a meet and greet with the Facebook friends and we did that first. We had it at the Old Fort picnic ground and we had about 500 people show up. Then the city of Marion contacted me and asked me about organizing a festival,” the retired paramedic said.
At least 40,000 people showed up to the festival last year with major media coverage from CNN, an Irish television news station and even Adult Swim.
“It was pleasant to see so many people turn out to the inaugural Bigfoot Festival, but we were not ready for it,” Bruner said.
He and the organizers expected 10,000 people to show up but the additional 30,000 were admittedly overwhelming.
Both avid Bigfoot researchers and believers and even curious non-believers attended the event, the festival’s organizer said.
Christopher Wade Nicolay, a professor of biology at UNC Asheville, specializes in anatomy and physiology of mammals.
“There’s an incredibly low probability of something that large in an area as densely populated as North Carolina. The whole entire half of Western North Carolina has essentially been logged,” Nicolay said.
While Nicolay said Bigfoot doesn’t exist, the work Bigfoot hunters like Bruner, Jagoe and Bakara do has importance.
“I think it’s actually good for the scientific community, it’s nice to have people that spark opinions and help us think about how certain we are about things. Some of these claims get people to think more about what animals are, how they live, where they’re at,” Nicolay said.
Nicolay said he was interested in attending this year’s WNC Bigfoot Festival.
“We had a mix of believers and non-believers, I will never try and change anybody’s mind whether they believe or not,” Bruner said.
The numbers for this year’s festival will increase significantly with both believers and skeptics coming to learn more about the mythical creature.
“People love to be challenged, we need that sort of stuff to keep the old tinker working,”
The second annual WNC BigFoot Festival will be held in downtown Marion on Sept. 14.