What better day in May to kick off the WNC Bigfoot Festival than Friday the 13th? Pre-empted the last couple of years by the pandemic, regional celebrants of America’s favorite cryptid were more than ready for a street fair atmosphere in downtown Marion, NC. By Saturday the number of exhibitor booths was upward of 250.
It really did take on the feel of a fringe flea market, dozens of vendors selling custom t-shirts, bumper stickers, walking sticks, candles and candies. I really had no inkling that the iconic profile silhouette of a walking Bigfoot had become so ubiquitous. If it wasn’t immediately recognizable in pop culture a couple of decades ago, it certainly is now. One thought crossed my mind. You can’t trademark Bigfoot! He belongs to the world and the creative artist or sloganeer has made from him a genuine cottage industry.
With proper time, budget and a large wagon to pull behind, you could literally own a different Bigfoot t-shirt for every day of the year! As soon as I hit the street I started keeping an eye out for the most clever designs. Everyone has embraced the big, hairy fella. The Baptist church had shirts which read, “God loves all His creatures, Big or small,” illustrated with the obligatory cameo. The Forestry Service and National Guard had gear featuring official looking logos alongside our elusive friend.
You can’t have a proper carnival without food and the barbecue and burger vendors were on hand. The mood was invigorating, the crowd filled with smiles and good spirits.
Enter the Pollock boys. I woke my teenage son Sylvan on Saturday morning and asked him to employ his new drivers license to get us down the mountain to Marion for the big party. I also let him in the plot I had been hatching.
A few years ago I spotted a bottle of Brut cologne at the discount store. Anyone who lived through the 1970s can likely feel their nostrils burn at the very mention of Brut. It looms large among the scents of my childhood, alongside Barbasol and Camphophenique. I bought it in a fit of nostalgia, surprised that they still make it.
The next time I shaved I splashed some on. My wife did not approve. The scent choked her and she forbade me to keep it in our medicine cabinet. It has languished in the side door of my car since.
I told Sylvan on Saturday morning that we should “Brut-alize” the Bigfoot Festival. We went through our closets and picked out matching Hawaiian shirts. These, I explained, should be worn over t-shirts so that we could tie them up in a plastic bag and stow them in the trunk for the ride home lest we be overwhelmed. You see, once arrived in Marion and before we walked down the hill past the police barricades to join the fun, we spread our Hawaiian shirts out on the car trunk and doused them with the entire remaining bottle of Brut.
“It’s like we’ll be crop dusting,” Sylvan observed. Exactly.
In my defense, this turn of aromatic mischief seemed entirely appropriate for a Bigfoot festival. My home county in Florida is known for a number of Skunk Ape sighting and. the experts will tell you, the first thing you’ll notice in such an encounter is the smell. Indeed, the accompanying odor is a common theme in most Bigfoot accounts.
It may speak to the good nature of mountain people that no one we stopped to chat with asked why we had taken a bath in cheap cologne. That it was prominent there is no doubt, though my son and I went nose-blind a few minutes along.
Perhaps some higher power decided to pull one on us, as we had been on the street for about 10 minutes when there came a cloudburst. We walked the entire length of the thoroughfare in the downpour, arriving at the other end thoroughly drenched. Most of the attendees were seeking shelter under tents or sidewalk awnings and were set to wait out the storm. Tarpaulins and Visqueen were rolled out to protect the merchants’ wares.
As we reached the last block of tables and turned to walk back up the other side of the street, I spotted an old acquaintance, Joshua Cutchin. I first met Josh some years ago through our mutual friend and FATE fellow Micah Hanks. As a matter of fact, the last time I had spoken to Josh at length was in 2017 when I interviewed him for FATE Radio about his book “The Brimstone Deceit,” which is subtitled “An In-Depth Examination of Supernatural Scents.” How appropriate then, that we appeared at his tent smelling like a condemned discotheque. The rain had rinsed us so that maybe we weren’t giving off visible vapors like spilled gasoline, but Josh Cutchin was exposed to excessive levels of Brut for some minutes and still managed to make good conversation. You should check out his two volumes of “Where the Footprints End” for thoughtful essays on the hyperdimensional nature of the beast in question. https://www.joshuacutchin.com/
In the course of our chat I mentioned that Sylvan and I had recently visited the nearby village of Casar, NC. Turns out that the Casar area is home to its own beloved Bigfoot character named Knobby. In fact, Knobby is so well-liked that when the citizens of Cleveland County were asked to propose a mascot for their community college athletics program, Knobby was nominated and the Yeti adopted in his honor, along with a great looking logo!
I told Sylvan that I was also on the lookout for “Bigfoot adjacent” swag. A well-rounded ambassador of weirdness might also have the ghost, UFO and kindred cryptid bases covered. A good many did. Among my favorite assortments was the booth of the CreepGeeks podcast, where Omi and Greg made us feel like old friends and were grateful for a couple of damp, Brut-scented back issues of FATE. Check them out at https://www.creepgeeks.com/
So, who had my favorite slogan? After making the rounds, considering all the Squatch puns on everything from infant onesies to beer koozies, the booth that drew me back was Humans Are A Hoax. I appreciated the light-hearted take on Bigfoot’s point of view for a change. They are a small, family operation with a few simple and attractive designs which really stand out in a crowd. https://www.humansareahoax.com/
The rain passed and Saturday afternoon found the street once again bustling with curiosity seekers and presenters returning to the stage. The WNC Bigfoot Festival appears to have established itself as an institution and I look forward to its annual return for many years to come.
-Vance Pollock hosted FATE Radio for the 2017 season and writes American Archvillain at archvillain.substack.com