LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Is Bigfoot more than a myth? True believers are meeting in Lakeland this weekend to share stories they think show the elusive, fabled creature is real.

“Florida has the third largest number of sightings in the country, only behind California and Washington. The bulk of them are over on this side: Polk County, Collier County,” claimed Marty Pippin, the organizer of the inaugural “Great Florida Bigfoot Conference” happening Saturday.

The Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve is seen as a treasure trove for Bigfoot “researchers.”

“A lot of sightings out there. A lot of activity in that area,” Pippin said.

There have been up to 350 sightings in Florida, according to Pippin. In the Bigfoot fandom, “sightings” are considered visuals of the Bigfoot itself, tracks or trees that fall in a superhuman way, among other signs.

“Not many humans can pick up trees and rip them out of the ground, carry them from one place to another, stick them between two trees,” David Sidoti, a Bigfoot believer from Lakeland, said. “So that tells me it’s like a keep out sign. It doesn’t want you in this area.”

Some people believe Florida is home to an entirely unique species known as the “Skunk Ape.” It’s a point of debate in the community.

An event like Saturday’s “Great Florida Bigfoot Conference” gives participants a safe space to discuss their experiences and their theories.

“You get a lot of those people that will hold on to these stories that they’ve had for their entire lives and sometimes have never talked about them or shared them,” said Pippin.

8 On Your Side asked people in Lakeland – do you think Bigfoot is real?

“There’s some weird things that have happened when we were in the woods and on the mountains in Tennessee so I can’t deny there’s got to be something,” said Candyce Coker, a believer.

“I don’t believe in Bigfoot. I think it’s kind of absurd,” non-believer Brandon Gray said. “They should go to Alaska if that’s what they want to do.”

The event headliners are Cliff Barackman and James “Bobo” Fay from “Finding Bigfoot” on Animal Plant. The event kicks off Saturday July 10 at 9:45am at the RP Funding Center. Tickets start at $20.