David Pardue, one the speakers at Saturday’s Big Foot Festival, has more than a decade of field research experience. Photo courtesy of CarolinaBigfootFieldResearch.com.

David Pardue has more than a decade of experience in “Bigfoot field research,” and claims to have had as many as 30 encounters with the elusive and controversial cryptid. On Saturday, as one of several lecturers at the second annual Big Foot Festival in Cumnock, he plans for the first time to share photos and video he says he’s taken of the the creature.

Pardue, of Summerfield, N.C. joined Carolina Bigfoot Field Research shortly after its founding by research partner David Moser in 2014. Before that, he spent about a decade working with the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, the group responsible for the television series “Finding Bigfoot.

Pardue spoke with the Rant ahead of Saturday’s festival, which runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Deep River Park in Cumnock. Lectures cost $5 for admission and will be held from 10 a.m. to noon and again from 2 to 4 p.m. There will also be food, canoe rentals, and various contests.

Pardue attended the 2016 Big Foot Festival as an observer, where he met the local organizers and decided to get involved by offering his own experience researching the horrifying beast of legend. 2017 will mark his first foray into public speaking about his work.

The Rant’s conversation with Pardue has been lightly edited for flow.

How did you get into cryptid research?

I’ve been interested since the early 70s, at least, but I’ve been active in researching since 2004, when I got involved with the BFRO, the organization which did the Finding Bigfoot TV show. That got me involved in field research. In about 2014, I split off with David Moser and we started our own web-based investigation organization and kind of got out of the commercial end of it.

Basically what we do is take reports from people – they’ll see something crossing the road, something in their backyard, or something while they’re camping – and we compile that data. Uwharrie is an area where we get a lot of reports, and that’s also an area where we can camp. I’ve done at least ten years of research in that area.

Eventually, if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll find them. The next step is getting them to interact with you. The next step after that is to take a photo. They’re very smart animals. You’re not going to trick them.

Have you ever seen a Bigfoot?

The very first encounter I had was in 2005, in West Virginia. That was a terrifying experience for me. Normally they just want you to leave the area – they’ll throw rocks at you, they’ll yell at you, do false charges. So most people’s first experience with them is an intense one.

Since then I’ve had some close encounters, maybe 30 different times. In some cases I’ve been within ten feet.

And I’ve seen them in North Carolina, West Virginia, Georgia, Virginia, Florida, Tennessee – all over the Southeast. And they’re not all the same. The ones in the Pacific Northwest are said to be bigger, more docile. Here, they seem more aggressive, although maybe that’t just because there’s not as much open space out here, and so that puts more pressure on them.

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Do you know of any Bigfoot legends that are specific to the Lee and Chatham county areas, such as the Chatham Monster?

I don’t, but it’s everywhere you go. Every rural community seems to have one of these – there are tons and tons of stories. Johnny Jackson, another one of the speakers, lives in Erwin, and he’s more up on those sightings. He has a lot of information about that area.

What do you say to skeptics who don’t believe in Bigfoot, or that you’ve seen the creatures?

I tell people “I understand that you don’t believe what I’m trying to tell you, but just come with me into the forest and you tell me what’s out there.” Until a body is discovered, you’ll always have that question.

What do you look forward to about the Cumnock Big Foot Festival? Is this an event for cryptid hunters, or skeptics, or both?

I look at it as a platform for us to show what our research is about, what our goals are, and what we’ve discovered, and then let people decided for themselves. It’s also an opportunity for a good day outside with the family.