NC Woolly Worm Festival

Woolly Worm Races Predict Weather

The 38th Woolly Worm Festival takes place Oct. 17-18 in Banner Elk, NC (Photo by Todd Bush).

The 38th Woolly Worm Festival takes place Oct. 17-18 in Banner Elk, NC (Photo by Todd Bush).

Thought you knew about most of the festivals in North Carolina? Bet you never heard of this one–the  Woolly Worm Festival in downtown Banner Elk, NC. During this festival the weather prognosticating skills of the woolly bear caterpillar take center stage.

The festival, which takes place  October 17 & 18th is now in its 38th year and holds a series of races to determine which woolly worm is bestowed the honor of forecasting weather conditions for the upcoming winter. According to legend, the 13 fur bands of the worm foretell the weather for all 13 weeks of winter. Brown bands indicate mild weeks and black bands indicate cold, snowy weeks.

“It’s unique. You have crafts, food and entertainment, but the unique aspect of the festival is that we race woolly worms,” says event chairperson Mary Jo Brubaker. “Not only does the winning worm determine the winter forecast for the North Carolina High Country, but the human being with the winning worm receives $1,000.”

Saturday is the day for determining the champion prognosticator, although races do take place Sunday for a smaller prize ($500) and no forecasting honors. Races start both days shortly after gates open at 9:00 a.m. Each day’s championship race takes place at approximately 4:00 p.m. Attendees may bring their own worms, or purchase one for a dollar from school kids raising money for the local PTO.

The festival draws approximately 20,000 people from across the country. When they’re not racing worms, attendees enjoy live music, kids’ games, a superb collection of craft vendors, plus a variety of food options ranging from Amish doughnuts to Carolina barbecue. The music lineup includes an Elvis tribute artist, Dolly Parton tribute artist and several bluegrass acts.

Admission to the festival is $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-12. Kids five and under are admitted free. For festival info, visit:, or call 800-972-2183. For lodging options, go to

(Info supplied by Craig Distil, PR Representative, Banner Elk TDA)

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