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May 10, 2024 7 minute READ

Big Mysteries in the Mountains

tags Local Flavor | Mast Family Favorites
locations All
Bigfoot welcomes festival goers to Marion, the home of the Bigfoot Festival - photo courtesy of John Bruner

A mysterious creature roams the hills of Appalachia. It carries its bulky, slouching figure upright yet travels with catlike agility under the cover of night so that it goes undetected and unseen – by most people, at least. Though it’s said to stand much taller than an adult human with hair or fur covering its body from head to toe, the creature is best known for one distinctive feature evidenced only by the tracks it leaves on the ground… An oversized foot.

Tall Tales

Yes, Bigfoot is said to have lumbered along the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains for centuries. While its legend exists in many other parts of North America, particularly the Pacific Northwest, the lore of Bigfoot has been spread throughout the Southern Appalachians dating back to the indigenous Cherokee. 

In Cherokee tales, the 7-foot-tall creature is a shapeshifting, mystical beast with black fur and solid, white eyes. It could take the form of any animal, even, according to legend, the appearance of an older man or woman. In human form, the creature would lurk amongst people and steal the hearts out of unsuspecting victims’ chests without leaving a mark. Its Cherokee name was likewise unnerving: the Raven Mocker.

As European immigrants came to the mountain frontier of the Appalachians, another myth involving a similarly sized and equally foul-tempered apelike beast grew. This creature gained a reputation for being extremely aggressive and territorial and came to be known – best from afar – by its long, wailing howl, which when echoed through valleys and hollers, cried, “Yahoo.” 

The debate around Bigfoot’s very existence is as hotly contested as ever. Whether a descendant of the Appalachian Yahoo or the Cherokee Raven Mocker, today’s version of Bigfoot depicts a kinder, gentler giant. Although its history and characteristics have evolved over time, Bigfoot remains elusive.

Regardless, or perhaps for these very reasons, Bigfoot is emblematic of the Appalachian Mountains. The age-old mysteries layered into their ancient slopes and lush forests. The blending of their cultures and the passing of folklore through generations of their inhabitants. The friction between serene landscapes and the harsh circumstances many of their settlers endured. 

While Bigfoot’s existence may be questioned elsewhere, it certainly exists in the Appalachian identity as long as there are stories to tell and people to tell them.

A Local Celebrity

App FC's Squatchy and Sammy in the Candy BarrelIt’s no wonder then that Bigfoot is celebrated around these parts! “Squatchy,” short for Sasquatch, of course, represents the Boone-based Appalachian Football Club as the team’s enthusiastic, shaggy mascot. Mast General Store, by the way, is the proud sponsor of App FC’s Official Home and Away Jerseys, and you can certainly spot Squatchy along with the club’s diehard Squatch Guard fans sporting theirs at every match this season. To pick up your own, check out App FC’s website. Not to be left out of the game, the Boone Bigfoots certainly stand out thanks to their moniker as they represent the North Carolina High Country in their independent baseball league.

There’s even an entire annual festival devoted to Bigfoot in Mast Store’s home region. The Western North Carolina Bigfoot Festival takes place in Marion, a quaint town situated near Lake James less than an hour east of Asheville and a bit more than an hour south of Boone. This event has drawn crowds upwards of 30,000 people since its first year.

WNC Bigfoot Festival in Marion, NC. Photo courtesy of John BrunerThe WNC Bigfoot Festival, which takes place in Downtown Marion 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday, May 18, features fun activities the entire family can enjoy like live music (Come early this year for the first-ever Friday night Bigfoot Jam starting at 6 p.m., May 17!), locally crafted Bigfoot-themed art and memorabilia, and even Bigfoot-inspired food. The most popular activity, however, is the can’t-miss Bigfoot calling contest.

Festival organizer John Bruner says that the event offers something for all people – Bigfoot believers and skeptics alike.

“That’s why we do this as a festival instead of a conference. That way we can be outdoors with contests, all kinds of food, vendors selling all kinds of merchandise, and having fun in the sun,” Bruner said.

Bruner recalls that the origin of the WNC Bigfoot Festival was inspired by his father’s earnest belief in Bigfoot. According to Bruner, his father started a Facebook group for fellow believers and enlisted the help of a research team. After a few years, the group grew to 10,000 members, so Bruner’s father invited those who were interested to a get-together. Expecting about 50 people to show up, he was overwhelmed when 500 – 600 arrived. Following the response, the Town of Marion reached out offering to create an official event, and the WNC Bigfoot Festival was born.

Current festivals still include public presentations by Bigfoot researchers and seekers from societies across the nation, but Bruner said that the point isn’t to change anyone’s mind about Bigfoot’s existence. Rather than divide people along the lines of doubters and believers, this festival is intended to unite a community in celebrating a local legend.

“It’s important to note that not everyone believes the same thing. Some think Bigfoot is a wild animal, some think he’s a spirit, some think he’s an alien, and some think he isn’t real. My goal is for people to have fun and discuss all the possibilities!”

So that all who are curious enough to go are afforded the opportunity to attend, Bruner says admission to the festival is free. Parking and shuttle services to the festival site are also free. For more information, visit the WNC Bigfoot Festival Facebook page or click HERE to visit their website. 

Five Mast Store Bigfoot Must-Haves

Bigfoot SignsMast Store also celebrates Bigfoot’s cultural relevance to the Appalachian Mountains! You’re destined to have your own Bigfoot encounter in each of our locations and at Mast Store Online when you come across our wide selection of Bigfoot-themed apparel, accessories, and novelties. You can begin your hunt by searching “Bigfoot” on the Mast Store’s website, but here is a sampling of our favorite Sasquatch sensations from the cute and comfortable to the comical and kitschy. 

Bigfoot Caller 
Training is the name of the game when you’re planning to enter an event like the WNC Bigfoot Festival’s Bigfoot Calling Contest. Even if you’ve yet to perfect the Sasquatch sound, you can use this handy device to replicate its unique call. Take it to your next campfire and use it as the perfect eerie sound effect as you tell a chilling campfire story perhaps as Bigfoot itself listens in.

Bigfoot Socks by Socksmith
Bigfoot may not want a pair of eye-catching socks as he hides in the forest. He’d be hard-pressed to find his size even if he did! You, however, can represent the legend in style with Socksmith’s patterned Bigfoot socks. These socks will give your coworkers a laugh at the office as Bigfoot peeks over the top of your loafers and will certainly start a conversation among your friends at any casual get-together.

Juan Short-Sleeved Shirt by KAVU 
KAVU’s Juan design button-down, short-sleeved is already a versatile, comfortable, warm-weather-wardrobe staple, but its Bigfoot pattern puts it over the top for a fun, wear-almost-anywhere look. It will certainly give Sasquatch a reason to look your way twice!

I Am Sasquatch Puzzle by Madd Capp Games 
As “puzzling” as its existence may be, Bigfoot also gives everyone the opportunity for some occasional, light-hearted, head-scratching fun! This 1,000-piece puzzle comes with a fact booklet and fold-out poster to use as a reference for further trivia, like, “Did you know in one Washington State County it’s a felony to harass a Sasquatch?” No joke!

Bigfoot Signage, Postcards, Memorabilia, & MORE
Embracing Bigfoot requires not only big arms, but also a big sense of irony. Let others know you’re proud to believe with an assortment of logoed location items sporting phrases like, “Please, Don’t Feed the Sasquatch,” “Don’t Stop Believing,” and, especially, this Blue Ridge Parkway emblazoned tote with the catchy quip, “Hide & Seek World Champion.”

Regardless of where your belief or skepticism lies, just remember that Bigfoot will always exist in the stories, traditions, and culture of the Appalachian Mountains. In this way, Bigfoot is as old as the oldest hills on our side of the world, which we’re proud to call home.

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