Sports Tourism, Bigfoot and the Rise of Cryptid Travel | Sports Destination Management

Sports Tourism, Bigfoot and the Rise of Cryptid Travel

Feb 29, 2024 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Snohomish United Bigfoot Soccer Tournament is one example of a sports tie-in with what has become known as cryptid tourism.

For those with tournaments in the right areas, it’s a great big fat hairy deal.

Across the country, cryptid tourism (defined as the pursuit of something that has not yet been proven to exist, but that everyone swears exists) is booming.

Think Bigfoot and his ilk. And it has already affected sports tourism.

By the way, this is not just in the Pacific Northwest (the most popular hunting grounds for Bigfoot/Sasquatch) but it’s popular in other areas where visitors can chase tales of critters like the Boggy Creek Monster (Arkansas), or the Skunk-Ape, (in the Southeast).

Tours, museums and even roadside attractions have sprung up to cater to those who have long had a fascination with these critters. Some states, as it turns out, are just better at marketing this, and have turned it into an industry.

In fact, according to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, the top state for sasquatch sightings is Washington, where there have been 708 “credible” sightings.

“This comprehensive database of credible sightings and related reports is maintained by an all-volunteer network of bigfoot/sasquatch researchers, archivists, and investigators in the United States and Canada – the BFRO,” the organization said.

In Index, Washington (a part of Snohomish County), Bigfoot is a centerpiece of Espresso Chalet, a roadside espresso stand located along the Stevens Pass Greenway segment of U.S. Route 2. The place includes statues, memorabilia and more. The owner, who used to enjoy dog sledding, says he came across “some tracks that were very unexplainable.”

And speaking of Snohomish, that county is home to 59 sightings; alas, the most recent appears to have been in August 2016. (The BFRO grades Bigfoot encounters as Class A, B and C, as explained here.) Other counties have had more recent sightings.

Tammy Dunn of the Snohomish County Sports Commission says Bigfoot continues to be a draw.

“People most likely tour to look for Bigfoot – or Bigfoot tourism attractions,” she notes.

And Bigfoot, whether seen or not, even folds into sports tourism. “Snohomish United Bigfoot Soccer Tournament has been around for 40 years,” adds Dunn.

Anthony Sardon of the Snohomish Youth Soccer Club notes, "From what I understand, the Snohomish Bigfoot Tournament name just comes from the Pacific Northwest lore of Bigfoot or Sasquatch. I don't think there is any special reasoning behind the name. Would be cool if there was!"

The tournament has a big economic footprint for sure; it was named a winner in SDM’s 2022 awards program, Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism.

Bigfoot crossingBy the way, ‘Squatch reportedly has a cousin in the Buckeye State, known sometimes as Bigfoot and sometimes as the Ohio GrassmanAccording to Cambridge and Guernsey County VCB, “It has been rumored to live in Ohio since the mid-1700’s. It has also been rumored to live in Ohio’s largest State Park. Salt Fork. Over 36 reported sightings have been reported.”

And since it would be a shame to let a sports tourism opportunity go to waste, the good people of Ohio note that the creature serves as the namesake for a local endurance run, the Bigfoot 50K, 20- and 10-Miler. The race goes through Salt Fork State Park.

Move to the other side of the country and you find tales of the Skunk-Ape, a hominoid common to the Southeast, and more pointedly, to Florida (although it is popular in Georgia and Alabama folklore as well). According to Wikipedia, the Skunk-Ape is often reported to be smaller in stature than Bigfoot (at least by traditional descriptions). It is named for its foul odor.

Descriptions of the Skunk-Ape go back to 1818, and sightings have continued to the present day, with 48 out of 67 counties in Florida reporting sightings since 2010. Noteworthy: In 1977, the Florida state legislature declined to pass a bill that sought to make it illegal to “take, possess, harm or molest anthropoids or humanoid animals.”

But whether or not politicians believe in it, the Skunk-Ape believes in itself is alive and well in sports tourism. There’s an endurance run known as the Skunk-Ape’s Revenge; the website for the 2024 event notes, that on the course, “You’ll be listening to the drone of frogs from all over, hoots from the owls, calls from birds, buzzing of bugs, and the yips of coyotes in the distance. Part of that sound and also silence, will make you wonder if “just that sound” was from something else... perhaps, the Skunk-Ape.”

Maybe the Skunk-Ape is Florida's answer to Bigfoot but Blooloop notes that Bigfoot is alive and well on Florida's tourism scene. 
Event Network, an operator of retail stores for experiential attractions, has announced the debut of the Bigfoot Discovery Tour, the first in a series of immersive pop-up experiences combining original content with custom retail. The tour, which is being produced by Event Network, started taking tickets in February 2024 at the Brevard Zoo; it is expected to go on the road as well.

Cryptid tourism in the Southeast extends to Fouke, Arkansas, where the Boggy Creek Monster is said to roam the swamps. It purportedly stands between seven and eight feet tall on two feet and weighs close to 300 pounds and has long, thick hair on its chest, legs and arms.

Fouke is located about 150 miles outside of Little Rock. According to Atlas Obscura, the first reported sighting of the Boggy Creek Monster was in 1834, “when people began to report a  large, hairy “wild man” was roaming around Arkansas. In the 1900s, sightings around Fouke became more frequent. Residents spotted the monster more than 40 times in 1997 alone. It has been suggested that the animal is nocturnal, but a hunter reported a sighting in broad daylight in the Sulfur River Wildlife Area near Fouke in 2000.”

The monster was the theme of a Legend of Boggy Creek Fun Run about a decade ago, although a festival celebrating its (purported) existence is held every April in the town.

West Virginia has its share of legendary critters, including the Mothman (there’s even a statue to it in the town of Point Pleasant), Sheepsquatch (a large, wooly white creature with a dog-like head and ram horns), the Flatwoods Monster and the Grafton Monster. 

On the same coast, but in the Garden State, you have the Jersey Devil, namesake of the NHL team, the New Jersey Devils, as well as of the endurance run, Jersey Devil 100-Miler.

For those who need something just a little more exotic, Roswell, New Mexico offers the Roswell UFO Festival, which takes place in July. Oh, and there’s always Area 51. Back in 2019, pranksters had pledged to storm Area 51 in Roswell, New Mexico in order to “see them aliens” (tagline: "They can't arrest all of us"). The promised raid never happened, but a copycat event, "Storm the Bermuda Triangle; it can't swallow all of us” also made news. That event required all participants to dress as SpongeBob SquarePants or as a pirate. It never took place either.

Don't see your state listed? Never fear; it probably has a cryptid of its own. Here is a handy list of all states in alpha order, followed by the cryptid each state (reportedly) houses.

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