Bigfoot didn’t show up in downtown Lawrenceburg Saturday, unless you count the guy in the hairy suit, but a lot of Bigfoot believers did.
The city hosted the inaugural Wildman Days festival this weekend, focused on the creature — also called Sasquatch and other names — that some say isn’t real but others believe in with a passion.
Count among the believers Daniel Lee Smith, a retired coal miner who drove more than five hours from Elkins, W.V., to attend the festival.
Smith, whose father called him Daniel Boone because he stayed in the woods so much as a kid, said he has seen a Sasquatch several times, heard them growl and whoop, and even had rocks thrown at him by a creature to warn him to stay clear.
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Smith, who had a plaster cast he'd made of a 26-inch long foot, said he inadvertently got between a male Bigfoot and a female and two babies in the woods one time before he got to his vehicle and got away.
“That was the scaredest I ever was,” he said.
The idea for the theme of the festival came from Jeff Waldridge, who leads ghost walks in Lawrenceburg, and his partners Lee and Jennifer Kirkland.
Anderson County has had the Burgoo Festival for many years in late September, but there was interest in having another event earlier in the year.
Bigfoot seemed a natural because Anderson County has had more reported sightings than any other in the state, at 27, according to the Kentucky Bigfoot Research Organization.
Bullitt County is next at 26, then Ohio, Carter and Adair.
“We wanted to do something totally different, off the wall, that would get attention,” Waldridge said.
Mission accomplished. Waldridge said he’d heard someone was coming from as far away as Australia.
“People are insane about this stuff,” he said.
It’s not clear why the county has had such a rich Bigfoot history.
There are thick woods along the Kentucky River, so the creatures would have plentiful water, food and cover, Waldridge said.
Other counties with fewer sightings have those conditions as well, though.
Josh Lillpop, who lives in the county and attended the festival with his 4-year-old daughter, Jacie, had an idea.
“Maybe it’s the bourbon,” he said.
Lillpop said he’s not a Bigfoot believer, but after a high-five from Wes Weldon, who was wearing a Bigfoot suit in the 80-plus degree heat, Jacie was convinced.
“He’s aweome!” she said.
The festival had non-Bigfoot attractions typical of local festivals — face-painting, rides and inflatables for kids; kettle corn, barbecue, funnel cakes and a corn dog vendor called Bite Me!; and booths with jewelry and other items for sale.
Bigfoot was the star, however.
There were contests for the biggest feet and hairiest man, sessions on reported Bigfoot sightings and on tracking Bigfoot, a wildman calling contest and an appearance by James “Bobo” Fay and Cliff Barackman from the Animal Planet show Finding Bigfoot.
Barackman said Bigfoot remains popular because of the persistent mystery.
“The weirdness and the mystery of life kind of grabs us,” he said.
Many people have reported seeing sasquatch-like creatures or finding other evidence such as footprints, but no bodies have been found.
The Kentucky Bigfoot Research Organization says the reasons for that could include that the creatures want to avoid humans so they stay deep in the forest; that there aren’t many of them; and perhaps that they bury their dead.
The organization says it believes Bigfoot is an as-yet unclassified hominid, the species that includes humans. Its goal is to prove their existence and protect them.
Bigfoot believers are accustomed to skepticism. Several people at the festival were wearing T-shirts that read “Bigfoot saw me. But nobody believes him.”
Believers said too many people have seen Bigfoot for the creature to not be real.
Smith believes the government has evidence that Bigfoot is real, maybe even some bodies, but suppresses the information because confirming it would make people fearful and wreck the outdoor recreation industry.
“Government likes to keep us blinded to a lot of things,” he said.
Robbie Hume, city administrator for Lawrenceburg, said it was nice to have another community event whatever the theme.
“It’s all about community, getting people out, giving them an opportunity to have a good time,” Hume said. “The approach we’ve taken is just enjoy it, whether you believe it or not.”
Wildman Days continues from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday on Western Avenue in Lawrenceburg.