Sasquatch celebration brings fun — and bit of mystery — to a small Oregon town

By Caden Perry
July 26, 2023 7:52 p.m.

The Glide Sasquatch Festival in Glide, Oregon, pulls in Sasquatch experts and skeptics alike for a day in honor of the Bigfoot

The story of Glide, Oregon, is a very common small-town industry tale. Big mill moves in, brings the townspeople and energy with it. Big mill moves out, leaves a mill-sized hole, strands local businesses and people with little to start again. If that was not enough, the Archie Creek wildfires of 2020 burned 131,542 acres of the nearby Umpqua Forest and forced the evacuation of Glide. For a town as small as it is, the sun seemed to be setting on the tale of Glide.

But, a new tradition in Glide is taking off that might set a big tone for the town. Last year, Glide started putting on a festival for Sasquatch, Oregon’s famous big-footed cryptid. Originally slated for only 500 attendees, instead 2,500 guests turned out to squatch around. Ahead of last Saturday’s 2023 festival, organizers were estimating about 5,000 people would attend, although final attendance numbers are not yet out.


So why put on so much for Sasquatch?

“Everybody likes a little mystery and living in the mystique of something unknown,” said Jeana Southwick, executive director of Glide Revitalization, the nonprofit that puts on the event and which is focused on bringing Glide and its community back to its former glory. Glide also resides in the area with the second-highest amount of Sasquatch sightings in Oregon.

Southwick said that the Sasquatch Festival was the exact kickstart Glide needed to get back on track.

“The Sasquatch Festival supports all our programs and community events,” Southwick said. “It’s all about supporting the local businesses and economy.”

With sponsorships from other Oregon partners, Glide Sasquatch Festival is free to all attendees and also provides scholarships to community programs in Glide. With all of the tourism that the festival brings, many Glide businesses have their best days out of the whole year during the event.

Three paths beckoned as visitors arrived at the festival on Saturday: To the right, a log carved into Bigfoot with a chainsaw; to the left, a boulevard of bouncy houses and wild food trucks; down the middle, vendors with all types of Pacific Northwest goods. At the far end of the event site, there was a main stage decorated in Sasquatch balloons and a big metal tagline that said “Big Feet Bigger Party.” This is where the big events of the day would take place.

The main stage decorations at the Glide Sasquatch Festival in Glide, Ore., on July 22, 2023. The Sasquatch decorations and inflatables were all commissioned from local vendors and artists.

The main stage decorations at the Glide Sasquatch Festival in Glide, Ore., on July 22, 2023. The Sasquatch decorations and inflatables were all commissioned from local vendors and artists.

Caden Perry / OPB


The audience was silent as Joshua Griffin, 7, walked across the stage at the festival. The host lowered the mic and stepped back.

“All right, let’s see what you got, Joshua,” the host said.

“GRAAAAWWWOOOOO,” Griffin bellowed into the mic, sending his screech through the rows of tents and trucks. There was a second or two of silence before the crowd responded with applause. He didn’t know it yet, but Griffin just secured his place as a finalist in the Sasquatch Calling Contest.

Putting so much Sasquatch into one spot might not turn a “Big Foot” skeptic into a believer, but it does show how wide the Sasquatch community actually ranges.

“Me and my wife travel all around the country looking into sightings that get reported to us,” said Scot Violette, co-founder of the Sasquatch-seeking organization Squatch America. “We go to the Maine forests all the time. We hang around the Pacific Northwest often. I’ve even been down to Texas, they call that forest the Big Thicket.” Squatch America showcased claw prints from Nutella traps and hair clumps that “have not been identified as any other species on Earth.”

The Sasquatch experts all got their moment in the spotlight at the Q&A event on the main stage. Kids asked how tall Bigfoot are, adults asked how empirical scientific methods fit into Sasquatch hunting and other adults asked what he smells like.

“I usually say it’s a mix of wet dog and onion funk. So a teenager’s scent, basically,” Violette said with a laugh, echoing through the seated crowd. But these Squatch experts are not ripe with jokes all the time. Many come from anthropology and natural science backgrounds, using their tools in data and evidence collection to find the beast they are convinced is out there.

“I try not to say I am a ‘believer,’ because that implies a whole bunch of things about blind following and disregard of evidence out there that rightfully calls Sasquatch into question,” said the other invited expert on stage, Dr. Jeff Meldrum, a professor of anthropology and anatomy at Idaho State University.

“My friend once got me this T-shirt that said ‘Believer For 20 Years’ with a Sasquatch in the middle. I took a marker, put a line through ‘Believer’ and wrote ‘Convinced’ in its place. I’m not a believer, I am convinced of Sasquatch’s existence for all this time.”

Meldrum said that, despite all the evidence debunking Sasquatch, the evidence he has seen in support of Sasquatch is too fascinating to walk away from.

There are few people truly closed off to the idea of a 10-foot-tall hairy hominid roaming through American forests on these festival grounds. Any and all theories, scientific or not so, are all welcome to the Glide Sasquatch Festival.

As the festival grows, Southwick said that it will remain self-sufficient and free to all attendees and growth will help more Glide support programs with time. Over the past year, Glide Revitalization and partners have already put $1 million into programs that help Archie Creek fire survivors.

“I just want to see Glide thrive. I care about the town, I care about the people, I care about making sure that we get back to being what we used to be,” Southwick said.