Town of Banner Elk, North Carolina

    The Woolly Worm Festival

    The Woolly Worm Festival began in 1977 and has grown to have worldwide fame thanks to the media and the efforts of Mr. Woolly Worm himself, Roy Krege. The festival is always held the 3rd weekend in October and is co-sponsored by the Avery County Chamber of Commerce and by Kiwannis of Avery County.

    The Kiwannis Club's mission statement is to care for the children of Avery County. In 2007, there was over $45,000 disbursed through 45 agencies. Festival attendance has reached 15,000 over Saturday and Sunday.

    The festival highlight is the Woolly Worm Races. Mountain folk use the brown and black stripes on the woolly worm (Pyrrharctia isabella) to predict the severity of the coming winter.  This is an important subject for the people of Banner Elk with the village being nestled between the three largest ski slopes in the High South. Tradition says that the black stripes predict cold and snowy weather while brown stripes point toward milder conditions.

    The festival also carries further meaning for the local population. Festival time is when locals sharpen their skis and make plans for the outdoor plants to come in. Wooly Worm time is when the air turns markedly brisk, however it is commonplace for the festival to have bright, clear 75° days.

    Mayland Community College has surveyed the festival visitors and these surveys tell that people come from 20 states and from 7 countries.