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Woolly Worm Festival Returns for 44th Year on Oct. 16-17; Vendors and Volunteers Still Needed

Photo by Todd Bush

By Harley Nefe

The color of leaves are changing, the seasons are shifting, and cooler temperatures are approaching, which means it’s getting to be time for the annual woolly worm winter forecast prediction.

The beloved Woolly Worm Festival will be making a reappearance this year for its 44th annual event on Oct. 16-17 in Banner Elk, which will bring together many locals and visitors alike in attendance.

“Everyone is excited that the Woolly Worm Festival will be back this year,” said Anne Winkelman, Executive Director of the Avery County Chamber of Commerce.

The event started in the late 1970s when Jim Morton, who was the editor of Mountain Living Magazine, was preparing to include a woolly worm forecast in the winter issue of the magazine. 

Woolly worms have 13 brown and black segments, which folks like to believe correspond to the 13 weeks of winter and the severity of the upcoming weather. 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. 

To determine which woolly worm will have the honor of predicting the winter forecast, attendees bring worms to race up a three-foot long string.

The state officially acknowledged Banner Elk’s festival as the official Woolly Worm Festival of North Carolina when the North Carolina General Assembly signed a bill into law recognizing this on June 25, 2018.

Co-sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk and the Avery County Chamber of Commerce, the Woolly Worm Festival happens on the third weekend of October every year, and it takes a big crew of volunteers and community leaders to make this event so great. The festival is still looking for volunteers and vendors to help make this year bigger and better than ever. 

“We are needing volunteers for ticket takers and the Woolly Worm Race Registration Stage,” Winkelman said. “Volunteers can come Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The set up time Friday is from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.” 

The festival currently has 145 total vendors registered, including food trucks, nonprofit organization booths and arts and craft merchants, and there are still a few spots available for other interested vendors.

With last year’s festival being canceled due to COVID-19, it’s even more important that this year’s event be a successful fundraiser for the community. 

“The Woolly Worm Festival is not only a load of fun for the community, but it is also an important fundraiser for the Kiwanis Club, Avery Chamber and additional funds,” Winkelman said. “This is a very important event because we didn’t have the event last year, and the bills needed to be paid. Therefore, there was a lot of expense and no income, so this was a very tough year. We needed this event.”

Admission is $6.00 for Adults, $4.00 for Children 6-12 and free for 5 and under. All visitors are asked to wear a face mask for the health and safety of all visitors and volunteers.

“Everyone should think about supporting the Woolly Worm Festival because the money flows back into the community,” Winkelman said. “It all goes into the community, and that is what is so important about it.” 

For more information about the event, visit http://www.woollyworm.com/ or call 828-898-5605.