Between presentations, I wandered through the merchandise room, where the speakers and others sold wares that included food, books, soap and jewelry, much of which had a Bigfoot theme. During a break for lunch, I spoke with a couple of retirees from nearby Lake Gaston who perform in local community theater as we listened to a young musician play, artfully, an out-of-tune piano. I also met and talked with Stephen Barcelo, the open, friendly man behind all of this activity. A former photographer from New Jersey, he moved to Littleton around 2013 and, before long, began hearing stories. Residents sporadically see not only Bigfoot, but other mysterious creatures in the woods. One thing led to another and Barcelo now has a new career as the proprietor of the town’s Cryptozoological and Paranormal Museum, as well as a seat on the town council. His advocacy has brought a considerable amount of media attention and commerce to Littleton.

I spent other parts of the weekend in neighboring Warrenton, a small-town enclave for well-to-do retirees, where I strolled past Antebellum and Craftsman-style houses decorated with roses and azaleas. I had dinner at the highly-recommended Burger Barn.

For the record, I’m skeptical when it comes to Bigfoot. Somehow, despite all the eyewitnesses, the evidence hasn’t yet met the stringent requirements of the scientific, legislative or journalistic communities.

But I love the stories. I love imagining Bigfoot tromping around the forests and mountains, the “undisputed hide-and-seek world champion,” as one bumper sticker at the festival put it, avoiding, whether through shyness or disgust, the corrupting influence of mankind. I love the thought, as I’ve written before, that something wild exists out there, beyond our control.

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