Top Vector StudioCalling all cryptozoologists and curious cynics alike: The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a hotbed of purported Bigfoot activity, and that reputation will soon collide with the summer festival season.
Wildman Days is a family-friendly celebration of all things Sasquatch held in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky the weekend of May 31. The fest features live music, contests and even a marathon that snakes through Bigfoot territory. Just under a two-hour drive from Cincinnati, it also makes for quirky road trip.
Now in its second year, Wildman Days was founded by Jeff Waldridge, along with Lee and Jennifer Kirkland.
“At first, people were unsure about (the theme),” Waldridge says. “But people have really come to welcome our Bigfoot heritage. It is what it is. You either believe or not. One thing the non-believers enjoy is the food and fun of the festival.”
Wildman Days features over fifty vendors selling unique crafts and souvenirs, plus a 5K race whose path winds through areas boasting a history of Bigfoot sightings. Contests include “The Hairiest Man in Anderson County,” a foot-measuring competition and a search for the best Bigfoot howler.
That’s not to suggest there isn’t some serious information shared at these gatherings, too. Charlie Raymond, founder of the Kentucky Bigfoot Research Organization (KBRO), is slated to be a guest speaker and is enthusiastic for the opportunity to share information with other speakers and general attendees.
“Anderson County in Kentucky (home to the city of Lawrenceburg) leads the state with reported Bigfoot sightings,” he says. Raymond founded KBRO in 1997 to document all credible encounters in the state.
“Cryptozoology has grown over the past few years,” he continues, noting that support for a yet-to-be-classified hominin such as Bigfoot has also grown. He says “the internet, a decrease in negative stigma and increased human encroachment on their habitat” are among the factors contributing to heightened interest.
Kendall Clinton, executive director of the Lawrenceburg/Anderson County Tourism Commission, recalls first hearing about the festival’s concept. “When Jeff first presented the idea of a Bigfoot festival, I thought it was fantastic,” he says. “(Jeff) wanted to incorporate something unusual that we are known for in Anderson County into a festival that has many unique aspects — from the Wildman calling contest to special guests from the television show Finding Bigfoot. Where else are you going to experience that?”
Finding Bigfoot is a popular Animal Planet program, which has brought its investigators to Kentucky three times, to date.
Cryptid curiosity aside, Clinton notes the festival’s importance from the tourism perspective. It was one of Lawrenceburg’s bigger events in 2018. Last year, he says that they even had someone from Australia fly in to attend.
“We hope to see it continue to grow to the size of the Anderson County Burgoo Festival, which has been held downtown each September for the past 25 years,” Clinton says, referencing a fest centered around the popular regional spicy stew.
And though there were no hairy hominid sightings at last year’s inaugural event, Waldridge says that the festival is still a “very easy way for researchers to gather new sighting reports from folks who may otherwise not tell their story.”
This year, the KBRO’s Raymond will present a local history of Bigfoot sightings near Lawrenceburg — in particular, the mysterious area known as The Frazier Land. “Legend has it that the Frazier family had a few encounters with a big, hairy beast in the late 1700s,” he says. “Since then there have been dozens of Bigfoot encounters in this ancient land.” The property was also the basis of a 2008 documentary, The Wild Man of Kentucky: The Mystery of Panther Rock, by researcher Philip Spencer.
Bigfoot itself has a heightened pop culture presence, too, and the interest doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon. Just last month, the animated feature Missing Link — which secured an 89 percent on Rotten Tomatoes — hit theaters with a Sasquatch-type creature named Mr. Link as the star and included the vocal talents of Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana and Zach Galifianakis, among others.
If you’re looking to take your curiosity even further, make note of Harlan, Kentucky’s second annual Crypto Con on June 8. As with Wildman Days, this is a free, family-friendly event — one whose scope goes beyond Bigfoot to include presentations on UFOs and paranormal research. In a similar vein is Lexington’s Cryptid Con, which will unfold in September. If you feel like road-tripping in the Buckeye State instead — which was recently ranked by the Travel Channel as the state with the sixth highest number of Bigfoot sightings — there’s the Hocking Hills Bigfoot Conference in September and the annual Ohio Bigfoot Conference, which was held earlier this month in Cambridge, Ohio.
Whether you’re a skeptic or Bigfoot believer, bring your curiosity, family and your own stories to Wildman Days at the end of May — it just might be the missing link your summer plans needed.
“If (Bigfoot) is out there,” the tourism commission’s Clinton notes, “I hope he wanders into downtown Lawrenceburg for the festival that honors him.”
Wildman Days will be held in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky from May 31-June 2. For more info, visit wildmandays.com.