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Believers, knowers and the curious celebrate Marion Bigfoot festival

By David Freeze
For the Salisbury Post

MARION — A table in front of Doug Teague was filled with Bigfoot footprint casts, many of them from McDowell County.

Teague, who is from Hickory, said looking for Bigfoot imprints is a hobby. He walks creekbanks and train tracks looking for prints left behind by the beast.

Teague searches with his dog, Crazy Daisy, who he refers to as a Squatch hound. “Daisy carries her own light and camera and is considered a member of the team,” he says.

Teague says he has seen the beast only from a distance, but he’s heard it growl and saw the rocks it throws. Bigfoot is said to throw rocks to scare humans off, and most who have seen it mention an intense odor. Teague’s favorite spot to hunt for footprints is South Mountain State Park.

Marion celebrated its first Bigfoot festival Saturday, just days after Mayor Steve Little declared the elusive beast the official animal of the city. The city has received regional and national media attention for its allegiance to Bigfoot and the festival. Bigfoot 911, a local Squatch searching organization, helped plan the festival now rated by many as the city’s biggest ever. Just last year, Bigfoot 911 posted a local sighting.

Vendors from at least six states and businesses got on board quickly. Gloria Moody of Marion owns Moody’s Baked Goods and Crafts.

“Some say that the festival makes fun of hillbillies, but it’s all in fun and it brings money back to the town.” Moody said. “I’m already sure that the festival will be back and even bigger next year. We’re just tickled to be here.”

Moody sold “Bigfoot poop,” a chocolate treat, and was nearly sold out by midafternoon. Other Bigfoot items were long gone by early afternoon.

Debbie Watson operates Flavors on Main and was offering Bigfoot burger seasoning, Bigfoot rib and butt rub, and Bigfoot wild game seasoning.

“We made these special for the festival, and we’ve had a great day already,” she said. “It is the biggest festival nearby that I can remember. This crowd is snapping up anything Bigfoot. But sadly, not a single Bigfoot has stopped by. Marion’s first Bigfoot Festival has all been a lot of fun.”

Downtown Marion was blocked off and nearby parking was jammed. At 2 p.m., under a blazing 90-degree sun, the crowd slowly moved along the packed street. Long lines persisted at ice cream and food booths and downtown stores. Shirts were so hard to find that a long line of people with a 30- to 45-minute wait stood on the shaded sidewalk wanting a turn to have shirts printed.

Almost as long was the wait at Mr. Bob’s Do-Nuts for another chocolate treat called “Bigfoot droppings.” Another vendor touted deep-fried banana pudding as “Bigfoot bait” and offered “Squatch fries” topped with cheese because the big hairy biped supposedly loves it.

Possibly the two most popular events was onstage on the courthouse lawn. A Bigfoot calling contest drew crowds as did an opportunity for anyone willing to tell about a personal Bigfoot encounter. Tales of often scary interaction with the hairy beast had the crowd clapping and cheering a few of the best.

More than one storyteller said, “Everybody thought I was stupid or a fool to tell this,” and confessed embarrassment. Speakers of all ages told their stories, and a few seemed relieved to get the words out.

One charged-up speaker said, “Show your hands if you’re a believer. Now, show your hands if you’re a knower. There are lots of knowers here today!”

Speakers from surrounding states and as far away as Indiana, Maine and New York took the stage.

Phrases heard included, “Once you see Bigfoot, you can’t unsee it. The experience will never leave you.” “You don’t find Bigfoot; it finds you.” And finally, “When you say that you want to see Bigfoot, be careful what you wish for.”

Organized Bigfoot hunts were hawked by local groups. Just down Main Street was a car show, and a 5K had started off the day.

Phillip Condrey of Marion came downtown with his grandchildren and waited in line at the ice cream shop. “I came more out of curiosity than anything,” he said. “I knew there would be a good turnout.”

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