High Country Association of REALTORS News

Live the Dream #31 - Valle Country Fair/Woolly Worm weekend

The annual Valley Country Fair and Woolly Worm Festival have become a traditional Autumn highlight of the High Country. Both events share the same weekend - the third Saturday in October - and both attract thousands of fall frolickers. For locals, it's a chance to stock up on homemade apple butter and celebrate local charm. For visitors and tourists, it's a rare opportunity to get lost in rural Americana.

First up is the Valle Country Fair, now 33 years old. It starts near daybreak in a large field within Valle Crucis and continues throughout the day. Last year more than 10,000 people enjoyed the sights and sounds.

The Valle Country Fair is an overgrown church bazaar set in the center of one of the most picturesque valleys in the North Carolina mountains at the peak of the fall color season. All monies raised go to fund High Country organizations which serve people in need.

The Woolly Worm Festival is an international attraction centered in the yard of Banner Elk Elementary School, just a few miles from the Valle Country Fair. It's a two-day event featuring crafts, music, food and, of course, woolly worm races.

When Jim Morton first put a blade of grass in front of a woolly worm, he had no idea that the fuzzy critter at his feet would lead to a festival that draws nearly 20,000 people, 140 vendors, 1,000 worm trainers, and national media crews to the town of Banner Elk.

Morton was one of the founders of the Woolly Worm Festival. "October of 1973 was my first autumn in this area," says Morton. "That was when I first learned about the woolly worm's role in local folklore. A gentleman who worked at Grandfather Mountain told me about woolly worms being used to forecast winter. ...

The woolly worm race is three feet of nylon from mark to mark. There's as many theories about what makes a good-running worm as there are worm trainers who enter the race. Morton says that larger worms don't necessarily fare better, and that the true winning talent is this: "It does help to check that your woolly worm has an instinct for climbing string," he says, with all the wisdom of a man who has seen more than ten thousand worms work their way to the top or fail. "They are moody," he adds.