WNC Bigfoot Festival postponed due to COVID-19 concerns

Nicholas Cohen

News Writer

ncohen@unca.edu

Photographed by Nicholas Cohen
A flag in Marion, North Carolina advertising the postponed Bigfoot Festival

The Western North Carolina Bigfoot Festival has been postponed due to concerns about the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Western North Carolina. The festival, originally planned to take place from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 17. and Saturday, Sept. 18., now plans to take place next year from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on May 27 and May 28.

WNC Bigfoot Festival Coordinator John Bruner said the decision to postpone the festival was made during a meeting of department heads for Marion, N.C. and Madison County. 

“Typically, for these festivals that we do, we have a meeting with all department heads, everybody involved,” Bruner said.“The city, county, Department of Transportation, North Carolina Highway Patrol, Marion Police Department, McDowell County Sheriff’s Office, McDowell EMS, Director of Emergency Management, the Downtown Business Association, the Chamber of Commerce, everybody.”

According to Bruner, during an interest meeting for the festival, Mayor Steve Little expressed concern over the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Western North Carolina.

“He said that on the one hand, canceling or postponing it, whatever you’d like to call it, would be beneficial to us because of how small of a town we are,” Bruner said. “On the other hand, it would certainly help a lot of the businesses around here bounce back from so much of the money that they’ve lost in the last 20 months or so.”

Bruner said a lack of emergency and medical response staff in Marion also contributed to the decision to cancel the festival.

“The Director of Emergency Management said that as of right now, they are running about 60 to 70% of the staff they need because they have so many employees out with COVID-19,” Bruner said. “What it boils down to is we wanted to do the festival but we just don’t have the resources available to do it.”

The WNC Bigfoot Festival is one of only two Bigfoot themed events on the east coast. The festival has been a popular attraction in Marion for two years now.

Bruner said he did not expect attendance to be as high as it was during the first Bigfoot Festival. 

“I was thinking that we were going to have 5,000 to 6,000 people, we had 33,000,” Bruner said. “All day vendors came up to me and said that they did more business today than they had done in months.”

Director of the American Cryptid Society Christian MacLeod has over 25 years of experience performing paranormal investigations in Western North Carolina. MacLeod has attended the WNC Bigfoot Festival before and planned to share his Bigfoot knowledge with visitors this year. 

MacLeod planned to give a seminar about paranormal investigations on Sept. 18. at 3 p.m. on the main stage at the Bigfoot Festival.

“They wanted me to talk about some of the stuff I’ve encountered while doing my cryptid investigations,” MacLeod said. “Usually people ask me what I bring with me on my investigations and why.” 

MacLeod said during the seminar he also planned to discuss how proud he was with the city of Marion, specifically the school system. 

MacLeod works in the social studies department at Foothills Community School in Marion when not investigating the paranormal. He planned to partner with students from Foothills Community School and use half of his booth at the festival to help raise money for the school. 

“I’m disappointed that I can’t do that for the kids right now, but we’ll do it in May,” MacLeod said.

Event coordinators also struggled due to the cancelation of the festival.

Bruner said it took a lot of time and money to book all of the speakers and special guests for the festival and it will be just as difficult to unbook them.

“We went through a fairly extensive process to get speakers booked, and in order to un-book them, we have to go through their agents and everything like that,” Bruner said. “It is going to be a little bit of a pain in the butt, although the speakers are fairly understanding.”

Bigfoot enthusiast Jason Nugen said he was looking forward to finally being able to go out and be around other people after having to socially distance for so long.

“Ever since COVID-19 happened, it feels like we’ve all been cooped up,” Nyugen said. “The festival was going to be something different, a nice change of pace for us to go back to normal.”