In a world where folks can find little to agree on anymore, one thing is for sure: People love Bigfoot.
Marion’s first ever WNC Bigfoot Festival made local history on Saturday as an estimated 25,000 people descended on downtown to celebrate the (some say) mythical creature. The festival was presented by Bigfoot 911, McDowell County’s own group of investigators who have conducted research here since 2014 and documented sightings of the “Beast of the Blue Ridge.”
John Bruner, commander of Bigfoot 911, was unable to be reached by phone on Monday. He could still be suffering from the “bigfoot hangover” as the term has now been coined by many locals, but he did post a message on the group’s Facebook page thanking his sponsors and everyone who attended, “Thank you for attending. I hope that you made great memories for you and your family. The biggest question that I have fielded today is are you going to have the festival again next year, and the answer is, ‘you can bet the farm on it, and it will be bigger and better.’”
“By far the largest celebration that we have ever had in the city of Marion,” said Mayor Steve Little on Monday. “In my 41 years, I have never seen anything like that. It exceeded everybody’s expectations.”
On Saturday, Little proclaimed Bigfoot as Marion’s official animal, which drew national attention way before the day of the festival. Little said he talked to folks from New Hampshire, Kentucky, New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, Georgia, Alabama and all over the Carolinas who came to Marion for the festival. Multiple national, regional and local news outlets covered Saturday’s event including CNN and NPR.
“Everybody was positive and laughing. We are definitely on the map. Who would have ever thought that?” Little said about Marion being known for Bigfoot. “I want to commend John Bruner and his team of people. They did a fantastic job. They are a small but dedicated group of people who have developed a hobby and turned it into a passion.”
The festival featured a 5K, scavenger hunt, car show, Bigfoot calling contest, Bigfoot knocking contest, Town Hall meeting, raffles, inflatables and multiple types of vendors.
McDowell County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Steve Bush said on Monday he has received multiple calls and emails from local businesses who were thrilled at the traffic and guests they had over the weekend.
“Everybody is very pleased and thankful,” said Bush. “We had most of the businesses sell out of food or had to close early because of the crowds. Even the hotels said they were thankful for the festival and the amount of patrons that were able to serve. I think it was exciting and it did live up to the hype. We are super excited as a community to be able to host this and I’m looking forward to next year. We have learned from the first one and we are going to do some things to make it better, and we are super excited. They got a chance to get a taste of Marion and the hospitality from our local businesses, and I think the whole county was pleasantly surprised.”
In speaking with Marion’s Police Chief Allen Lawrence after the festival, he said the only issues his officers had on Saturday concerning the gathering were traffic.
“We had to call more officers in because of traffic stopped on I-40 in both directions trying to get to the event, and troopers helped us out,” said Lawrence. “I think it was a great event. Everyone was safe and had a great time.”
Freddie Killough of the Marion Business Association said the Mountain Glory Festival usually attracts around 15 to 18,000 people, but she believes that the Bigfoot Festival was upwards of 30,000.
“Everyone is talking about how people worked together to make it happen,” said Killough. “Every business was extremely busy and had a very good day.”
For those who didn’t get their commemorative Bigfoot T-shirt, visit WNC Bigfoot Festival on Facebook to find out how to order one.