When the Comini family celebrates holidays, Annie always receives the brunt of Bigfoot jokes.
“My family thinks I'm nuts,” the Sewickley Township mother of three said as her husband, Chuck, laughed. “I've told them all I want written apologies, when (an uncovered body) comes out.”
Like thousands, Annie became fascinated with Bigfoot when TV shows like “Finding Bigfoot” and “Mountain Monsters” rose in popularity. Then, her intrigue shifted from entertainment to education, which brought her to last month's 2016 Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure, the gathering's inaugural event.
Experts, enthusiasts, believers and skeptics, most from the tri-state area but some from as far away as California, assembled at Benner's Meadow Run, a campground and Sasquatch hotbed near Farmington in Forbes State Forest. Day hikes, night investigations, speakers and cookouts filled the weekend itinerary for those who purchased the 225 tickets sold. Proceeds benefited three local charities.
“There were no TV shows when I started this. Bigfooting wasn't cool,” event organizer and Bigfoot researcher of 35 years Eric Altman of Jeannette said. “With the experience, education and the scientific, objective research that we do, we want to teach the new people that are interested in it the right way to do it.”
Despite some people's reason for attendance being pure amusement, several took advantage of the event's empathetic fellowship to offset harassment from family and colleagues.
“It took me about three years to talk. I didn't want the ridicule,” said Dave Groves, who joked he is “the Bigfoot guy from Mars (Pa.).” “There's a community that I never knew existed.”
But the weekend wouldn't be complete without an abnormal encounter, even for Annie's skeptic husband, whom she coaxed to come along. A shadowy figure caught playing peek-a-boo on a thermal imaging device moved the needle of Chuck's disbelief.
“It was nothing we ever heard in the woods before,” said Chuck, an avid hunter who compared the encounter to game. “There's so much of the world that we don't know. Take a ride in an airplane and look down at the ground. See how much is actually woods. There are still spots on our Earth that man hasn't touched.”