Bigfoot Expo: Alaska’s First Sasquatch-themed Event to Focus on the Big, Hairy Creature
People who study the human-like creature of legend called Bigfoot will get together this weekend in Fairbanks to report on its possible presence in Alaska. The Boreal Bigfoot Expo to be held Saturday at Pioneer Park is open to all who want to hear about the investigations – and especially those who want to share stories of their close encounters
Michael Thompson says he’s been fascinated by the legend of Bigfoot ever since he was a boy growing up in Illinois, where he watched pulp movies about the Hollywood version of the creature during Saturday matinees.
“As a kid growing up in the mid-’70s, there were a lot of the Bigfoot Hollywood-type movies and Sasquatch-themed movies,” he said in a recent interview. “They made a big impression on me.”
Thompson now lives near Tok and works as a Customs officer at the Alcan Port of Entry. But he says those campy old movies triggered a lifelong interest in the Bigfoot, which he prefers to call Sasquatch. He began looking for tracks or other evidence while hiking or on Boy Scout camping trips, hoping he might someday cross paths with it.
“So when I was camping,” he said, “I started to take notes and look around, and it kind of led into what I kind of became today – a field researcher.”
Thompson is one of four like-minded devotees of Sasquatch from around the Interior who’ve organized what they say is the first Bigfoot-themed event to be held in the Alaska.
“We’ve got three guest speakers, including myself, lined up.”
One of those speakers is Larry “Beans” Baxter, a veteran and retired cop who lives in Homer. Baxter has earned notoriety through his “Alasquatch” website and blog, and appearances on cable TV shows and documentaries, including one titled “In Search of the Port Chatham Hairy Man.” That’s the name used by white settlers of the town at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula for a creature that, according to legend, lived there long before they settled in the area.
“Yes – the Nantiinaq,” Baxter said in an interview this week.
That’s the Alutiiq name for the creature. Baxter says the Nantiinaq is one of several indigenous peoples’ legends of Bigfoot-like creatures in Alaska. And he thinks that’s one of the reasons why so many people here find the legend of Sasquatch so compelling.
“I think most people get into it, because they hear about sightings nearby, or they hear about modern sightings,” he said. “And then once you dig into it, then you find out like ‘Oh, well the Natives have been saying this has been around for years and years.’ ”
Thompson says the Bigfoot Expo will include presentations on other so-called cryptids besides the Sasquatch that likely originated from the lore of indigenous peoples. Like the Lake Iliamna Monster, and the Thunderbirds of the Lower Yukon River.
“Any kind of cryptid or UFO thing is also invited. We try to appeal to everybody.”
Thompson will be one of the presenters, and he'll talk about his years of research that's catalogued on his website. He says he wants to hear stories from people who believe they’ve had an encounter with a Sasquatch or other such cryptid. He’s says he typically hears those kinds of tales from people who’ve lived in remote areas.
“Because that’s our biggest source of information,” he said. “The people that live remote and out in the villages, where they’re away from the influence of traffic and noise and things like that – (those are) the guys that have the encounters.”
Thompson says skeptics and academics also are welcome. Baxter says he also hopes to see professionals like wildlife biologists, who in his experience may seem outwardly skeptical but otherwise are very interested in the subject.
“You know, I have a few people that work in wildlife science that follow my social media and they listen to my podcast,” he said. “But they’re not very vocal about it, because obviously they don’t want the ridicule that comes with it.”
The Bigfoot Expo gets under way tonight with an event at the HooDoo Brewery called Bigfoot and Brews. The main event begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Pioneer Park Centennial Center.