Woolly Worm Festival set for October 20-21

BANNER ELK, N.C. -- One of the most popular family festivals in the North Carolina High Country is the unique and colorful Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk. This year the wacky fun is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 20-21, when the brown and black woolly worm caterpillars will be racing for prizes and glory.
   Woolly worms are conducted in heats on lanes of nylon strings. Twenty of the unpredictable caterpillars compete in each heat, and the winning worm advances to a semi-finals heat. On Saturday at 4 p.m. the champion woolly worm in the final race will win $500 first prize, and will be used by festival officials to determine an official Woolly Worm Festival forecast for the coming winter. If the champion caterpillar has a large number of black bands, the forecast will call for a cold and snowy winter, but a woolly worm that is mostly or entirely brown would portend a mild winter season.
   The Woolly Worm Festival features more than 100 craft vendors, plenty of tasty food choices, and a wide variety of activities for kids. The festival is high on the grounds of Banner Elk Elementary School and is a non-profit event that benefits numerous organizations in Avery County, N.C.
   A new event this year will be the Woolly Worm Woad Race for runners and walkers at 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19. The 10-mile course from Avery County High School in Newland to Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk will follow curvy Hickory Nut Gap Road in an over-the-mountain challenge that will connect the two largest communities in Avery County.
   For more information, contact the Avery/Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce at 800-972-2183.