Article by Patrick Massey
Photos by Ethan Nahté
Many folks believe there is something roaming the forests and mountains of Southwest Arkansas. Something big. Something hairy. Something named Bigfoot.
And if you’re one of those who believe in the idea of a primitive bipedal creature lurking the region’s wildlands, an upcoming event will prove you’re not alone.
The Blue Zipline & Farm will host the fourth annual Ouachita Bigfoot Festival and Conference Sept. 22-23. Bigfoot believers will descend from across the region to the Blue Farm, located at 142 Polk Road 185 in the community of Ink near Mena. The two-day festival will feature a ton of different events ranging from speakers and concerts to a fishing derby and night-time squatchin’ expeditions.
“This is just a great way to get people together to enjoy one of our greatest mysteries and have a lot of fun while they’re doing it,” said Shelly Alston, owner of The Blue and the founder of the Ouachita Bigfoot Festival and Conference.
In previous years there has been a Bigfoot costume contest and will be repeated once more. Don’t be surprised to find people dressed as the hirsute cryptid.
This year will bring something new with their first Bigfoot Costume Contest for Pets. Dogs, cats, lizards, chickens, goats, pigs… as long as they are under 200 pounds, they are welcome.
Dress your pet as Bigfoot or enter your pet in the traditional costume contest (non-bigfoot). $2 entry fee. Win some great prizes from local pet product and service retailers.
It’s to benefit The Humane Society of the Ouachitas. HSO will also be onsite to answer questions any questions about the pet adoption process and any pets that are currently available for adoption.
Numerous vendors are expected to be present along with a flea market, food trucks, a bounce house, kids games, “The Bogman” movie and more. The festival will also include a reptile and amphibian exhibit this year as well as the large native fish aquarium operated by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. (Eds. See ad on page 2 for more events and activities)
In addition to events all day both days, area bigfoot researchers will present a conference from 1-4 p.m. on Friday and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Different discussions will be held each hour including by field researchers Dan Nedrelo and Eudell Head, among others. Attendees are invited to ask questions, bring photos and share their own experiences.
“The discussions are going to be great,” Alston said. “We’ve got researchers and speakers coming who have spent decades researching bigfoot and the mystery around the subject.”
Night-time small group squatchin’ expeditions will be held in nearby areas known for their bigfoot activity over the years. The expeditions are open to those 15 and up and will be limited to the first 40 participants. Squatchin’ starts at 9 p.m. Friday and 10:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“These expeditions will be in an area where we’ve had lots of bigfoot experiences and sightings for years,” Alston said. “There’s no telling what we might see and hear while we’re out there but certainly it will be a great time.”
Saturday night, the Leif Shivley Band will take the stage with a performance inspired by legendary acts such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin. Tickets are $15 at the amphitheater gate or $10 if purchased in advance. Almost Guilty will open the show.
Admission to the festival and conference is just $2 while children four and under are free. Advance purchase tickets are available and include camping on the festival grounds, concern admission and entry to both days. Service animals and pets are welcome.
As in previous years, the 2023 Ouachita Bigfoot Festival & Conference will serve both as a hub for area bigfoot aficionados and a fundraiser for local charitable causes. Proceeds from the event will go towards the School Lunch Fund of Polk County, which benefits school children whose families are suffering a financial hardship.
For more information and to purchase advance tickets, visit www.blueziplinefarm.com or call 479-216-8639.