UPDATE: Though the 2020 event was canceled this year due to COVID, there was still a Woolly Worm race! On Saturday, Oct 17 a private race between wooly contenders took place to predict the winter forecast! The 13 segments on a woolly worm represent the 13 weeks of winter. The winning wollly offered the following prediction:
- The first four segments are black, meaning the first four weeks of winter could see snow and below-average temperatures, with the average winter temperature being 27°F.
- The next three bands are dark brown, meaning average normal temperatures for the following three weeks.
- A one-week fleck indicates below-average temperatures, with frost and a little snow.
- Two additional dark brown segments suggest average normal temperatures for the next two weeks.
- Another one-week fleck suggests below-average temperatures with frost and minor snow.
- The last two weeks showed black, meaning snow and below-average temperatures.
October 17-18, 2020
Race your woolly worm to help predict the winter forecast according to the worm's stripes. The Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk (about 85 miles from Asheville) is held the third weekend of October. Since 1978, the residents of this village at the foot of Beech Mountain have celebrated the coming of the snow season with the Woolly Worm Festival. They determine which one worm (out of 2,000!) 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.
Festival hours are Saturday 9 AM-5 PM and Sunday 9 AM-4 PM. The Woolly Worm races begin around 10 AM. Each heat consists of 25 worms and races continue all day until the grand final. The winning worm on Saturday gets the $1,000 first prize that accompanies the prestige of having your worm used to pronounce the official winter forecast. The Sunday races are for prestige, fun and a $500 prize.
The Woolly Bear caterpillar has 13 brown and black segments, said to 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. No person is more likely to have a winning worm than any other person. There is no other experience in life that can produce the absurd euphoria that comes from cheering for a caterpillar to climb a string!
In addition to the races, enjoy live entertainment and 140 food and craft vendors with their handcrafted items.
How to Race A Woolly Worm?
- Get a Woolly Worm: If you don't have a woolly worm to bring, buy one at the festival for just a dollar. There will be many local 'breeders' on the festival grounds with an assortment of specially bred and trained worms.
- Name Your Woolly Worm: The name you give your woolly worm can reflect your aspirations of his (or her) performance.
- Obtain A Registration Form: The official woolly worm race registration forms will be available right at the entrance to the Woolly Worm Festival grounds.
- Visit The Registration Table: The registration table will be located near the large, raised platform where the races will be held. At the table, turn in your registration form, pay the $5 registration fee, and get a Heat Number.
- Listen For Your Heat To Be Called: The races move along quickly. When your heat is called, go directly to the race board.
- Go Up To The Race Board: Get ready to race and good luck!
Tickets & Parking
- Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for children 6-12, under 5 years old, free. All proceeds support community groups.
- There is ample parking, but the free parking is on a first come basis and other parking by organizations for $5-$20/car.
- Be patient - expect traffic jams getting into town!
- Please no pets inside festival gates. Doggie day care is available outside of the gates at the main entrance.
- There are no ATMs on festival grounds, but there are nearby ATMs in town.
- Street address for GPS: 185 Azalea Cir SE, Banner Elk, NC 28604