It is with deep sadness that the 2020 Woolly Worm Festival of Banner Elk has been cancelled. This is not a decision the Woolly Worm Board of Directors has taken lightly. Every year, profits from the festival are given back to our community to enhance the lives of children and to promote business and tourism in Avery County. Local businesses and organizations also benefit from festival visitors to our community.

After careful consideration and guidance from local and state agencies as well as the Boards of Directors from the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk and the Avery County Chamber of Commerce the decision was made to cancel this year's onsite Woolly Worm Festival on October 17 and 18, 2020. We know it’s the right decision based on the information we have today.

Your safety comes first, and we're grateful to all who planned to be a part of this year's Woolly Worm Festival, and who've made it a fall tradition since 1978. We hope you'll join us when the Festival returns to Banner Elk in 2021.

In the meantime, the Woolly Worm Festival’s Board of Directors will be developing a link from our website to many of our vendors so that you will still be able to support and purchase some of their wonderful handicrafts online. The Board is also working on a way to decide which Woolly Worm will determine this winter’s weather forecast with virtual online races. Plans are being made for a way that children can interact with Merryweather online. Please continue to check our Woolly Worm website (, Avery Chamber website ( and the Woolly Worm Facebook page for further details as plans develop.

Merryweather is excited to be traveling this year to tell everyone about the Woolly Worm Festival. The festival is not only fun to attend but also raises money to improve the lives of children in the local community and to help promote tourism. Due to the COVID virus, the 2020 Woolly Worm Festival has been cancelled, but you can still play a part in all the fun.

Download this image of Merryweather. Tape a popsicle stick or straw to the back and take Merryweather on your excursions. Snap a picture of you and Merryweather on your travels visiting a fun place or a local business. Kids can take pictures of Merryweather watching them do their homework or online school lessons. Share your adventures with Merryweather on her Facebook page.

Merryweather has been reading the history book on the Woolly Worm Festival and learned so much about her heritage. She loves the fact the winning race worm helps local officials determine the upcoming Winter weather season. There will be a private race to help with this year’s prediction, but you can still race your woolly worm at our local chamber offices. See locations below.

Avery County Chamber of Commerce
4501 Tynecastle Hwy. #2
Banner Elk, NC 28604

Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce
100 Main Street W
Banner Elk, NC 28604

Official Woolly Worm Festival of North Carolina October 17-18, 2020 - CANCELLED Banner Elk, North Carolina

Located at the Historic Banner Elk Elementary School, 185 Azalea Circle, Banner Elk, 28604

2019 Woolly Worm Festival Final Results of “Reading Of The Worm”

42nd Annual Woolly Worm Festival Read by Tommy Burleson

Winning Worm – "Winning Worm- Wild Worm Will" | Owner of the Worm – Leslee Brown, of Wilmington, NC"

The official weather forecast:

(1) Black, (2) Black, (3) Fleck, (4) Black, (5) Light Brown, (6) Light Brown, (7) Brown, (8) Brown, (9) Brown, (10) Brown, (11) Fleck, (12) Light Brown, (13) Light Brown

Black: below average, snow/ Dark Brown: below average/ Light Brown: above-average/ Flick: black and brown, below average, frost or light snow.

Avery County Average Mean Temperature is 27 degrees (winter)
Two Weeks- Black- Above Average-Snow +1 inch, Two Weeks- Fleck-Below Average Light Snow/Frost, One Week- Black-- Above Average-Snow +1 inch,  Two Weeks- Lt Brown-Above Average, Four Weeks-Brown/Amber-Average, One Week-Fleck- Below Average Light Snow/Frost, Two Weeks-Light Brown--Above Average

There are 13 body segments in a Woolly Worm and 13 weeks in the winter season.  Each body segment of the winning Woolly Worm corresponds to that week’s weather.



Admission is $6.00 for Adults, $4.00 for Children 6-12, Free for 5 and under.

The 42nd Annual Woolly Worm Festival takes place the 3rd weekend of October, falling on the 19th and 20th in 2019, in the quaint mountain town of Banner Elk North Carolina.  We think it’s the perfect time to share some tips that will make your experience a good one while at the festival and getting to the festival.BlankETicketLogo

  • Yes. There is an admission cost to get into the festival because  all proceeds are given back to our community to enhance our schools, children’s programs, and to promote businesses and tourism in Avery County.
  • Yes. There is ample parking, but the free parking is on a first come first serve basis and non-profit organizations are authorized to charge parking fees for overflow parking.
  • Pets are not allowed, other than Woolly Worms.  We regret that Doggie Day care will not be available. PLEASE DO NOT BRING YOUR PETS.
  • Yes.  VISA and Mastercard are accepted for festival admission.

What a great time to think of the holidays. Purchase great handcrafted wares from our juried artists, ranging from fun items to those for decorating your house with amazing furniture. Who wouldn’t love a nice piece of jewelry or pottery under the Christmas tree? There are inflatable rides, live music, cheap drugs, and dance teams… Admission tickets can be purchased online at so there is no need to stand in line as there is a limited number of races, it is important to register to race your worm as soon as you arrive at the festival! Remember, the winning Woolly Worm on Saturday earns the esteemed honor of predicting the High Country's winter weather and receives a huge pot of $$$ - $1000 to be exact! If you can’t make it to the festival on Saturday - don't worry - we begin the fun again on Sunday from 9am until 4pm. The fun starts Saturday morning at 9am and the woolly worm waces begin shortly after with Mr. Woolly Worm and Merryweather leading the fun! On Sunday at 1:00 is the Corporate Woolly Worm Wace. The winning worm earns a trophy and bragging rights for its business. Call the Avery County Chamber of Commerce at 828-898-5605 for more information.

History of the Woolly Worm Festival

home-pic1Back in the late 1970s, the editor of the now-defunct Mountain Living Magazine, Jim Morton, was preparing to include a Woolly Worm Forecast in the winter issue of the magazine. He photographed the first Woolly Worm he saw to use in formulating the prediction and illustrating his story, but the next day he saw a second worm that looked completely different from the first!

“That’s when it struck me that we needed some formal procedure to use to decide which was going to be the official worm for making the winter forecast,” said Morton.

So since 1978, the residents of the village nestled between the Carolina’s  largest ski resorts have celebrated the coming of the snow season with a Woolly Worm Festival. They set aside the third weekend in October to determine which worm will have the honor of predicting the severity of the coming winter, and they let that worm earn the honor by winning heat after heat of hard-fought races up a three-foot length of string.

The Woolly Bear caterpillar has 13 brown and black segments, which the late Charles Von Canon explained to the small crowd huddled together in the sub-freezing temperatures at the first Woolly Worm Festival correspond to the 13 weeks of 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.

“If you went solely by the attendance figures, you probably wouldn’t call the first festival a success,” recalled Morton. “But WCYB-TV in Bristol sent a cameraman and their report ended up being broadcast nationwide by NBC News. That national TV coverage was really what gave me the motivation to want to keep the event going.”

And the more than 20,000 people who attended the Festival last year certainly are glad that they did. Because racing Woolly Worms is a total blast!

  • First, no person is more likely to have a winning worm than any other person. There is no home-field advantage, no preferred age for the person who sets the worm on the string (although worms raced by children do seem to win a bit more frequently).
  • Second, selecting names for the Woolly Worms is a delightful way to learn how amazingly creative your friends and family members can be. Consider these clever monikers: Merryweather, Patsy Climb and Dale Wormhardt.
  • Finally, there is no other experience in life that can produce the absurd euphoria that comes from cheering for a caterpillar to climb a string. It is so indisputably ridiculous that it is completely liberating!

The $1,000 first prize that accompanies the prestige of having your worm used to pronounce the official winter forecast doesn’t hurt either.

The Woolly Worm races begin around 10:00 a.m. Each heat consists of 25 worms and races continue all day until the grand final around 4 p.m. The winning worm on Saturday is declared the official winter forecasting agent. The Sunday worm races are for prestige, fun and small prizes. Worm Races are limited so please arrive early to the festival and register your worms.

In addition to the Woolly Worm Races, the festival features crafts, food vendors, live entertainment and much more. Last year’s festival attracted an estimated 20,000 fans, 170 vendors and around 1,000 race entrants.