The legend of Bigfoot has left a big impression on Hastings resident Harriett McFeely, and she hopes her Bigfoot Crossroads of America Museum and Research Center, along with the upcoming International Bigfoot Conference this Friday and Saturday at Chautauqua Park, will leave its mark on the community.

Since childhood, McFeely has been tracking Bigfoot after seeing a television spot featuring explorer Sir Edmond Hillary and his famous photograph featuring footprints of the creature on Mount Everest in 1953.

For years, she attended Bigfoot conferences across the United States with her late husband, Dick, becoming increasingly interested in its whereabouts and history in the process.

At Dick’s suggestion, she decided to host a conference of her own in 2017.

“We had traveled to these conferences and planned vacations around them for some time,” she said. “Dick thought, ‘Why don’t you host a conference here?’ We found through our travels that we weren’t the only ones who planned vacation trips around these conferences.

“What I wanted to do by offering a conference here locally was to give residents the chance to hear the full story of Bigfoot from the most credible sources in the world without having to travel hundreds of miles like we did, to hear from such experts.”

It has never been McFeely’s objective to convert others into becoming Bigfoot believers.

She wants to share what information is out there that has intrigued her for so many years, then let the chips fall where they may.

“You don’t have to be a believer to visit my museum or attend my conference,” she said. “Skeptics are welcome. I don’t care if you still don’t believe after seeing and hearing the case for Bigfoot. I just want people to have the opportunity to make up their own minds based on the evidence presented from credible sources.”

Hastings Bigfoot Museum, which is located at 1205 E. 42nd Street, opened its doors in 2018.

It has since been frequented by visitors worldwide, benefiting mainly from Nebraska’s Passport program in 2020.

This year’s Fourth Annual Bigfoot Conference moves to Chautauqua Park Pavilion from Hastings City Auditorium, in part, due to coronavirus concerns.

An outdoor venue with ample space for social distancing just seemed to make the most sense this time around, McFeely said.

As was the case in each of her first three Bigfoot Conferences, this year’s event hosted by McFeely includes some of the most respected and familiar names on the planet in the realm of Bigfoot research.

Headliner Igor Burtsev from Moscow, Russia, is a noted historian and author who heads the International Hominology of the Forest People Center in Moscow.

Also on the venue are cryptozoologist Ken Gerhard and other Bigfoot enthusiasts.

This year’s event will include a world premiere showing of the film, “The Bigfoot Alien Connection Revealed,” to be featured on the big screen at Hastings Museum Theatre on Friday at 7 p.m.

McFeely said she hopes visitors to this year’s conference will help draw attention to her museum, which Hastings residents vastly ignore.

She thinks having hundreds of people from all walks of life filling the park at the conference would send a pretty powerful message to locals that the museum and conference are worth exploring, she said.

“We haven’t had a great response from locals to the museum, and that’s puzzling to me,” she said. “We are the only Bigfoot museum within a 500-mile radius. Our staff travels to conferences across the U.S. as speakers and speaks at nursing homes, Boy Scout meetings, schools, and adult education programs.

“I get that people sometimes tend to overlook things that are right in their own backyard. I hope that this conference will serve to pique their collective curiosities and get them to stop by and see for themselves the fantastic exhibits and information we have here on display at the museum.”

For event or museum information, call McFeely at 402-705-0000.

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