After winning the male division of “The Biggest Foot in New Haven” contest, first-year graduate student Matt Benoit GRD ’08 good-naturedly declared, “I have big feet.”

Such was the atmosphere surrounding the contest held at the Peabody Museum Saturday afternoon. Open to all of New Haven, the contest was expected to draw more people to the museum for “Bigfoot!,” an exhibition which explored both sides of the debate surrounding the existence of the elusive primate.

The event also included sensory awareness hikes, a drawing contest for children, and two lectures given by David Daegling, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Florida, and Peter Byrne, the founder of the International Wildlife Conservation Society and co-founder of the Bigfoot Research Project.

When asked why they decided to visit the contest, Benoit’s friends said, “We came just to have him win.”

As for Benoit, he replied, “I enjoy feasting in all the cultural aspects of New Haven,” and added that he finally “[got] something out of my gigantic feet for once.”

Despite publicizing the contest through posters and fliers in local newspapers and at the athletic departments of various universities, only four males and three females were in the running by the time the contest came to an end.

“[T]urnout’s been low because the weather is nice,” said David Mangold-Heiser, Peabody’s events coordinator.

At the end of the event, Mangold-Heiser gave those who abstained from competing one final chance.

“Speak now, or forever hold your peace,” he said.

Benoit claimed the prize for his size 14 feet. In the female division of the competition, three women tied for first place with size 10 feet.

Winners took home a $100 gift certificate to either Footlocker or Barrie Ltd.

“If I’d have known the contest was happening, I would have gone,” said Justin Simon ’04, the proud owner of size 15 feet. “A lot of the guys have bigger feet than that. Dexter Upshaw [’06] wears a size 18.”

Simon said the $100 gift certificate would have almost paid for a new pair of shoes.

Fortunately, the foot contest was not the only event the Peabody was holding Saturday.

The “Create Your Own Cryptozoological Creature” contest, which was designed to appeal to young children, fared much better. A large group of children and their parents surrounded three tables covered with crayons, paper and Bigfoot stencils.

The lecture series, which investigated the existence of Bigfoot from an academic standpoint, was also well attended. Daegling gave examples of ways to approach the Bigfoot debate by scientific means in “Sasquatch Under Scrutiny: The Case Against Bigfoot.” Byrne followed with an alternate perspective on the issue in “Probing the Bigfoot Mystery.”

The idea behind the Bigfoot exhibition was to “try to bring people into the idea of Bigfoot a little more,” Mangold-Heiser said. “We have nothing but footprints.”

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