Abbotsford mill worker tells symposium he encountered a Sasquatch near Spuzzum.

Monday, June 9, 1997
The Vancouver Sun

Standing in front of a crowd of about 50, Mike McDonald explains that up until two weeks ago he didn't believe in Bigfoot. That was, he says, before he saw one of the legendary creatures while hunting near Spuzzum. "I don't even know where to start," McDonald, 33, nervously told the crowd gathered at the fifth annual International Sasquatch Symposium in Vancouver on Sunday.

He was hunting brown bear, he said, and believing he had found one, set the sights of his gun on it. The creature had its back to McDonald, so he waited and watched through the gun sight for the bear to turn around and give him a good shot. "Six or 10 seconds later it stood up and it was definitely not a bear," he said. "My heart started pounding. I was so scared." He waited until the creature left, then ran to his truck for his camera. When he returned, the creature was nowhere to be found.

On the way home, McDonald stopped to phone his girlfriend and tell her of the experience, but told no one else until Sunday.

"I thought, who do I contact?" he re-called. "Do I call the police? No - they're going to call me a nut. I would have thought that before, too."

The atmosphere of the symposium hasn't put McDonald, an Abbotsford mill worker and former corrections officer, at ease.

"There are some strange people here." he said after his speech.

He stands out from the crowd because unlike many of the others, he doesn't have a name tag identifying him as a Sasquatch hunter or investigator, or member of any particular crypto-zoological-group.

Sasquatch enthusiasts discussed everything from a link between the giant ape like creatures and UFOs to their telepathic abilities at the weekend convention at the H.R MacMillan Planetarium.

The walls and lectern were plastered in ads for Kokanee beer, which sponsored the symposium. Each time a new speaker took the stage a lucky raffle winner received a T-shirt from Kokanee, whose advertisements feature a beerswilling Sasquatch.

Over to the side, a large cartoon Bigfoot was propped up against the wall, its face cut out to allow visitors to stick their heads through for a photograph.

The subject of Sasquatches attracts some "flaky" people, admits California-based comedian Scott Herriott, who attended the conference.

He likes to poke fun at the subject himself.

"I thought I saw one once crossing the road, but on reflection I realized it was just two hairy leprechauns on stilts," he joked.

He also showed a 30-minute video he made, a satire about how to sight a Sasquatch.

But Herriott is a true believer. He, too, shared a story of his own encounter with a Sasquatch.

First-hand accounts like those are what convention-goers pay to hear. They also dish out up to $40 for books describing encounters that were offered for sale outside the convention-room doors.

Around the corner, dedicated Bigfoot fans could buy a grainy poster reproduction of artistically enhanced scenes from Sasquatch video footage for $20 each, or even plaster castings of Bigfoot's big feet for just $88.

And interest is growing. Organizer Stephen Harvey said the convention enjoyed its busiest year yet, in part because it moved to Vancouver from Harrison Hot Springs this year, and in part due to a resurgence of interest in the paranormal.

"Certainly the 15 [-year-olds] to the 20s seem to be more open because of the television programs that are on these days that are giving coverage the unknown," said Harvey.

More than 300 people attended symposium sessions.