The stars of Animal Planet's hit "Finding Bigfoot" admit most communities don't exactly open their arms wide when they come to town.
"We've never gotten a citywide celebration," says "Bigfoot" regular Cliff Barackman. "We've been run out of town before, though."
Knoxville will be different.
County Mayor Tim Burchett will help facilitate a visit from the "Bigfoot" cast and crew, launching with a public meet and greet 5 - 7 p.m. Friday at the Powell Auction house off Clinton Highway. A kiddie play area and face painting will be on tap. The public can meet the stars and get their autographs.
Admission is free.
Then, after the gathering, the Sasquatch gang will tour the surrounding area, scouting for the beast. A camera crew will be in tow, recording the gathering and the search.
Burchett says the production will be in the area for several days. Pre-production revved up earlier this week.
The show has never been to the Knoxville area and there are no particular plans currently on where their searching will take them. Sasquatches are thought to be nocturnal and dwell in secluded, wooded areas.
"They aren't exactly hanging out on the nearest street corner," Barackman says.
And, no, you can't go with them on their quest to get solid evidence that Sasquatches exist. Taking people outside the team opens up the possibility for pranks on the team, making their journey a waste of time.
The result of the search will be seen on cable channel Animal Planet, probably in the spring, Barackman says.
Just as Barackman and Holland say they often hear from folks critical of their work, Burchett is unapologetic when it comes to the subject of Sasquatch.
Burchett doesn't see harm in having the show in town. He sees the plus side of it. After all, "Bigfoot" is one of Animal Planet's highest-rated series and has fans so devout that they'd travel from the far corners just to see the stars of the controversial reality series.
"One million, 700,000 viewers is all I am thinking (about) and the revenue it derives," Burchett says. Plus, "they're going to come here and spend a lot of money."
Burchett says he's hearing from the public and county commissioners that they are fans of the show and like the idea of it coming here to do an episode.
He is also aware that the idea has its detractors, people snickering and rolling their eyes.
"They want to come here and run around our woods and spend their money I think it's a great thing," Burchett says.
Does he believe that Bigfoot exist? "Who doesn't believe?" he says jokingly. "I believe in 1.7 million viewers ... I'm not a nonbeliever. I'm glad to have them here."
Of the critics, "Bigfoot" researcher Ranae Holland says, "Everybody is entitled to their own opinion (based) on their own experience ... I can have an intelligent debate with somebody that is simultaneously respectful. When you are in science, you are constantly testing accepted norms ... so much energy is wasted on attacking each other."
Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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