Approximately fifty people gathered at Grandfather Mountain on Tuesday to honor and commemorate two key individuals for their service on the Woolly Worm Festival for the past 39 years. The Kiwanis Club of Blowing Rock held a luncheon to celebrate achievements of the Festival founder, Jim Morton, who passed away in April, and Roy Krege, who has served as “Mr. Woolly Worm” since the early days of the event and announced his retirement at last year’s festival.
The Woolly Worm Festival, scheduled for October 21-22, marks its 40th anniversary this year. Framed copies of the festival poster, designed and produced by Nancy Morrison and Danica Goodman, was presented to the two honorees. Jesse Pope, Executive Director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, accepted on behalf of Jim Morton.
Upon accepting his award, Krege remarked, “I am thrilled with all of the lives we have touched, and all of the children we have helped through the Kiwanis organization with the funds raised from this festival.”
Pope added, “This all started as a hair-brained idea, and it has been wildly successful. The Woolly Worm Festival is one of the things that Jim Morton was most proud of. We miss Jim very much. I know he’d be so proud of this day.”
Kathy Boone, chair of the Woolly Worm Festival committee, spoke of this being a “transition year.” “We are so grateful for the partnership between the Avery County Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanis Club, being able to achieve so much together. Here we have an annual festival whose attendance exceeds the entire population of Avery County!” she exclaimed.
As “Mr. Woooly Worm,” Roy Krege has served as the race announcer, as well as appeared on multiple television shows and visited area schools and events to promote the festival. His role will be replaced by the “Three Worm-a-Teers,” Jason DeWitt, Shawn Strickland, and Adam Binder. DeWitt was in attendance at the Kiwanis luncheon, and unveiled his custom made outfit as the “Woolly Worm Dude.” “No one could fill the shoes of Mr. Woolly Worm,” said DeWitt. “So we had to do something a little different. I’ve always considered myself a “dude,” he said.
To commemorate the festival’s landmark year, a “History of the Woolly Worm” booklet is being produced and will be on sale at the festival. Tickets for the festival are available on-line, or at the gate, October 21-22, beginning at 9 a.m.