Photo courtesy of the Avery County Chamber of Commerce

BANNER ELK, N.C. — The 43rd annual Woolly Worm Festival may have been canceled this year due to COVID-19, but you can’t keep a good worm down.

Previously scheduled for Oct. 17-18, the festival sees approximately 20,000 attendees visit Banner Elk in Avery County to witness a big prediction from the smallest of prognosticators.

During the festival, woolly worms are raced in a series of heats, with the champion given the honor of delivering the winter forecast. According to legend, the color bands on a woolly worm can help predict the severity of winter.

On Saturday, Oct. 17, the Avery County Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk (both organizers of the annual landmark event) hosted a private race between their less-than-featherweight contenders — the Chamber Charger and the Kiwanis Kicker — at Holston Presbytery Camp in Banner Elk.

Overseen by perennial woolly worm interpreter Tommy Burleson, the race saw the Chamber Charger win by a literal matter of inches.

Burleson, in turn, examined the Charger’s color patterns and presented the worm’s winter prognostication.

The 13 segments on a woolly worm represent 13 weeks of winter.

  • With the Chamber Charger’s first four segments being black, 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.

Neither the Chamber Charger nor Kiwanis Kicker responded to phone calls or email inquiries before press time.

For more information on the Woolly Worm Festival, visit www.woollyworm.com, or call the Avery County Chamber of Commerce at (828) 898-5605.