The champion woolly worm in races at the 39th Annual Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, NC was Hans Solo, owned by brothers Reyn and Hickson Beekman of Boone, NC. Hans Solo was examined by festival forecaster Tommy Burleson, who predicted that winter weather in the North Carolina High Country will be as follows:
Week 1 (begins December 21) - Normal temperatures with light snow.
Weeks 2-4 - Below normal temperatures with accumulations of snow.
Week 5-11 - Above normal temperatures with little or no snow.
Weeks 12-13 - Average temperatures with light snow.
Admission is $5.00 for Adults, $3.00 for Children 6-12, Free for 5 and under.
The 40th Annual Woolly Worm Festival takes place the 3rd weekend of October 21 & 22, 2017 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.
- Yes. There is an admission cost to get into the festival because all of 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 basis and other parking by organizations for a minimal fee.
- Please no pets inside festival gates, except Woolly Worms, of course. Doggie day care is available outside of the gates at the main entrance.
- There are no ATMs on festival grounds so be sure to stop at one of the bank ATM machines on your way.
What is there to do once we get inside the festival gates? Of course wace your woolly worm! It is $5.00 to wace your worm. If you didn’t find one along one of the many back roads before you get here, don’t worry. The PTO will have them for sale inside the gate by the main gate information booth. Be sure to arrive early as the Worm Wace Wegistration fills up quickly.
What a great time to think of the holidays. Purchase great wares from our handcrafted juried artists 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 inflatables rides, live music and dance teams… Tickets can be purchased online at WoollyWorm.com so there is no need to stand in line unless you want to. Remember, the winning woolly on Saturday has the esteemed honor of predicting the High Country's weather and wins a huge pot of $$$. If you are very lucky your Woolly Worm will share it’s $1000.00 cash prize with its owner. Can’t make it to the festival on Saturday - not to worry - we begin the fun again on Sunday from 9am until 4pm. Sunday at 1:00 is the Corporate Woolly Worm Wace. The winning worm wins a trophy and bragging rights for its business. Call the Avery County Chamber at 828-898-5605 for more information. The fun starts Saturday morning at 9am and the woolly worm waces begin shortly after with Mr. Woolly Worm and Merryweather leading the fun!
History of the Woolly Worm Festival
Back 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!
“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 one worm will have the honor of predicting the severity of the coming winter; and they make 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 that 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 17,000 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!
And 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 9:30 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.
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 16,000 fans, 160 vendors and around 1,000 race entrants.