By Madison Fisler Lewis
Oct. 20, 2014. Despite an apparent shortage of woolly worms this year in Avery County, the 37th annual Woolly Worm Festival still went off without a hitch and brought in thousands of excited attendees.
Vince Weyman, a ninth grader from Graham, raced the winning woolly worm on Saturday, according to a press release.
Festival experts examined the black and brown bands, which in Appalachian folklore can predict the upcoming winter, on the winning worm, Kwazimodo. The following 2014-15 winter forecast was released by organizers:
- Weeks 1-4 (Dec. 21-Jan. 17) – Snowy with below normal temperatures
- Week 5 (Jan. 18-24) – Light snow with below normal temperatures
- Weeks 6-10 (Jan. 25-Feb. 28) – Below average temperatures with little or no snow
- Week 11 (March 1-7) – Moderate snow and below normal temperatures
- Weeks 12-13 (March 8-21) – Snowy with below normal temperatures
A regional shortage of woolly worms this season meant that some slight changes had to be made to the way that the woolly worm races were carried out, but all in all, the festival was once again a massive success.
“Somehow the woolly worms decided to go everywhere but Avery County,” said Sue Freeman, executive director of the Avery County Chamber of Commerce.
“That has been a first, but if we have to bring them in from elsewhere next year, that is just what we will do. We had plenty of worms to race because we recycled them. If you had a worm, we would buy it back from you when you were finished racing and it worked out well, there were plenty of worms to go around on Saturday.”
The worm shortage was perhaps due to the cold and rainy snap that the High Country had experienced in the week leading up to the festival. But nothing could stop this highly-anticipated annual event from being one of the most well-attended festivals of the year once again.
“Attendance is in line with last year, but we haven’t gone through the tickets yet,” said Jo-Anne McMurray of the Avery Chamber. “Our online ticket sales tripled, so we are really proud of that!”
New this year were the corporate woolly worm races, where businesses chose and raced a worm for bragging rights and a trophy to display in their place of business.
“We had a ton of fun with the corporate races,” Freeman said. “Carol Schaffer, a dentist, named her worm ‘Flossy’ and that was just so cute. When she got her worm on the line and it didn’t go anywhere, she said it must have forgotten to floss! We had a great time with it and we are going to continue the corporate races this year.”
But Freeman maintains that while the festival is a ton of fun for everyone involved, the true premise of the event is to give back to the community.
“After all of our debts are paid, all of the money raised will be dispersed back into the community, and that is what it is all about,” Freeman said.
In the future, Freeman noted that she hopes to continue to streamline the worm registration. In addition, the Chamber hopes to increase volunteerism at the festival.
“We will work on getting more volunteers next year,” Freeman said. “If there are groups or businesses out there that want to volunteer they are welcome and we need them. Businesses can put together a volunteer team and it is a great way to support the community and get your faces out there, it really is a great PR event.”
Check out photos of the event below.
Photos by Todd Bush