by Madison V. Fisler
Oct. 14, 2013. The 36th annual Woolly Worm Festival, scheduled for Oct. 19 and 20 in Banner Elk, is coming up quick! Since 1978, the residents of beautiful, scenic Banner Elk have celebrated the coming of winter with the highly-anticipated event.
But some have to ask… what is a woolly worm?
A “woolly worm” is a woolly bear caterpillar, which is a species native to the area that has 13 brown and black bands, which are said to correspond to the thirteen weeks of winter. Dark bands mean that the corresponding week of winter will be harsh, cold and snowy, while a lighter, brown band means that the corresponding week of winter will be mild and will produce less snow.
The formal procedure for determining which woolly worm is used to predict the winter-weather forecast has become the Woolly Worm Festival, where kids of all ages, from 2 to 92, choose their woolly worm and race them in a series of heats up a three-foot length of string. The winning worm is crowned the official forecasting woolly worm of the winter season, and the winning worm’s “handler” receives a $1,000 grand prize.
The races begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday with a series of heats. The winning worm after a full day of exhausting racing is crowed the winning woolly worm. But don’t worry, there’s still lots of woolly worm racing fun in store for Sunday as well. The Sunday races are just for fun, and everyone is welcome to participate.
Contestants can choose to bring their own wild-caught woolly worm or to purchase a worm from the booth at the festival.
“Yellow Mountain Enterprise in Newland will be taking donated worms for the festival,” said Sue Freeman of the Avery County Chamber of Commerce.
But the Woolly Worm Festival has so much more to offer guests other than woolly worm races! Guests can also enjoy crafts, food vendors, live entertainment and much more. Come on and join about 23,000 of your closest, newest friends and enjoy some time outdoors with the family at the 36th annual Woolly Worm Festival.
No dogs are allowed at the event, said Freeman, instead they must be kept outside of the gate at Doggy Daycare.
The Woolly Worm Festival is sponsored by the Avery County Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk and part of the proceeds from the Festival go to support children’s charities throughout the county.
Tickets for the Woolly Worm Festival can be purchased online in advance here. Tickets can also be purchased the day of the event at the festival. Tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for children ages 5-12 and free for kids under four per day.