Fuzzy Prognostication and Fun
Given the rollercoaster ride of recent winters and after one of
the wettest summers in memory, it is more important now than ever to fall back on one properly
proven prognosticator to deliver a prediction for this year’s winter weather.
Returning for its 36th edition, the Banner Elk Woolly Worm Festival will bring thousands of visitors to downtown Banner Elk for a two-day festival of races, food and fun this Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 19 and 20.
Every year, the young and young at heart bring their woolly worms to compete at the festival in heats, as the worms are raced up a 42-inch vertical string.
Each heat winner of the races that take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday earns a $20 prize and advances to the semifinal round. Victory in that matchup earns the winner a prize of $100. The winner of Saturday’s final race takes home the grand prize sum of $1,000.
On Saturday race day, more than 1,200 woolly worm caterpillars compete for the top prize, as well as the chance to determine the official weather forecast for the coming winter.
During Sunday’s Woolly Worm Festival activities from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., worm races continue for bragging rights and the opportunity for a lucky worm owner to pocket $500 in first-prize earnings. Generally, statistics show that there are fewer heats that occur on Sunday, which naturally increases a competitor’s opportunity to haul in the extra spending cash with the help of a furry friend.
The Banner Elk Woolly Worm Festival features unusual and unpredictable woolly worm races, in addition to live music, children’s activities and dozens of craft and food vendors.
Mountain folklore contends that a woolly worm with mostly brown coloration indicates that the coming winter weather will be mild, while a worm that is mostly black portends that a cold season approaches.
The bands of fur on the worm that vary in shading and color between brown and black determine the weather forecast. The 13 segments on the woolly worm’s back correspond to the 13 weeks of winter, progressing from the head to the tail. The darker the band, the more severe the weather forecast for that week.
According to “Mr. Woolly Worm,” Roy Krege, the predictions rendered by winning worms stack up with the best meteorological forecasting with today’s technology.
“Bring on any official forecaster,” Krege said. “You can’t beat nature when it comes to predicting weather.”
Worm owners pay $5 for each worm that they enter in the woolly worm races. Worms are normally available for purchase from one of the enterprising elementary-age entrepreneurs selling worms outside the festival gates, for those who come to the festival without a worm but eager to compete.
The Banner Elk Woolly Worm Festival is a nonprofit event co-sponsored by Kiwanis of Banner Elk and the Avery County Chamber of Commerce, with proceeds going to education and service organizations in Avery County. For more information, call the Avery County Chamber at (828) 898-5605 or visit http://www.woollyworm.com.