By Emily Willis
If you’ve always wanted to go to the Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk but you’re not sure where to start, have no fear! Read on to discover everything you need to know about attending this unique High Country tradition, where winter weather predictions are handed over to the woolly worms.
What? Want to know the weather for winter? Let a worm decide! Come out to the 39th annual Woolly Worm festival to participate in the woolly worm races and witness the prediction of this years winter weather. Aside from the races, enjoy the crafts, food and live entertainment! Want to enter a worm into the race? Find one on your way or buy one for one dollar from kids supporting their local PTO groups.
When? Saturday, Oct. 15 at 9 a.m. kicks off the festivities! Races will begin shortly after 9 a.m. and the championship race will begin around 4 p.m. The fun continues Sunday Oct. 16 at 9 a.m. with more woolly worm races! Also on Sunday, come see the Corporate Woolly Worm race at 1 p.m., where local businesses race worms for a trophy and bragging rights!
Where? This annual festival will be held in the beautiful mountain community of Banner Elk. Click here for directions!
Cost? Admission is $5 for Adults, $3 for Children 6-12, Free for 5 and under. Also, it is $5 to enter a worm into the races.
Other Information: Want to stay for the whole weekend? Lodging options are available at BannerElk.com.
For more information, visit the official Woolly Worm Festival website at www.WoollyWorm.com or call 800-972-2183.
The festival started in the late 1970s, when Jim Morton was faced with a dilemma. Morton wanted to include a woolly worm forecast in the Mountain Living Magazine (no longer published). He quickly realized the need for a ‘chosen’ worm, because they were crawling all over the place! From this, the Woolly Worm festival was born, where participants can enter their worm of choice into a race.
Along with Morton, Roy Krege has been the public relations director for the festival every year since the very beginning. Krege, AKA Mr. Woolly Worm, has been interested in continuing this unique tradition in the High Country for over thirty years. He has traveled to different areas of North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina spreading information about the festival, woolly worms, and the value of folklore.
Since the honor of predicting the weather is so outstanding, the worms will be put to the test! Heat after heat, the worms are placed on a three foot long string and race to the finish. The winning worm on Saturday will act as the forecaster for the winter forecast and the owner of the worm will win a grand prize of $1,000! The winner of the races held on Sunday will receive bragging rights and $500!
You may be wondering how the weather is predicted by using a worm. The woolly worm is made up of 13 segments. The 13 segments coordinate with the 13 weeks of winter, and the color of these segments determine the severity of the upcoming winter.
The lighter brown a segment is, the milder that week of winter will be. The darker black a segment is, the colder and snowier the corresponding week will be. In other words, the more brown sections there are means a milder winter. The more black segments there are, the more severe the winter will be.
Last year’s winner, Rebecca Perree of Palm Beach, Fla., with her worm Twinkle Toes, predicted last year’s winter to be:
- Weeks 1-3: Very cold and snowy.
- Weeks 4-5: Normal temperatures, little snow.
- Week 6: Normal temperatures, no snow.
- Weeks 7-9: Normal temperatures, little snow.
- Weeks 10-11: Warmer than average, no snow.
- Week 12: Below average temperatures, some snow
Aside from the race, there will be plenty of other opportunities for fun! The festival also includes about 104 craft vendors, 30 food vendors, live entertainment and rides. This two-day family event annually draws more than 20,000 attendees!
Not only is the festival entertaining for kids and families, it also promotes the community. Melynda Martin Pepple, the executive director of the Avery County Chamber of Commerce, says, “Each year, the money from the festival is poured back into the community and schools. The festival also brings in more and more tourists each year to witness this annual tradition!”
Buy your tickets in advance online now or at the festival. Admission is $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for children 6-12 and free for 5 and under. There will be plenty of parking space at the festival! Free parking is first come, first serve. Other parking will be $5. Make sure to stop by an ATM before going into the festival! Also, no dogs are allowed into the festival.
If you’d like to help out as a volunteer at the festival, call 828-733-6006 or email [email protected]