Thursday, October 20, 2011

Celebrating the Woolly Worm

The wind cuts like a knife this morning, and it’s so cold outside even the woolly worms are hibernating, I’ll bet. 

I hope the weather warms up before the Woolly Worm Festival in Beattyville this weekend.  Organizers of that event were no doubt hoping for a weekend like our last one. 

Kentucky is festival poor, as we say, meaning just the opposite—we have plenty of them.

Many of them celebrate a regional food.  We have Irvine’s Mountain Mushroom festival, West Liberty’s Sorghum Festival, London’s Chicken Festival, etc.

The Woolly Worm Festival is one of my favorites.  I don’t attend that many festivals, actually, but I like the name of this one.

And I like its timing.  The leaves still have some color but are just about to fall, so it’s a great time for a drive. 

We typically travel on up to Natural Bridge State Park--after a quick trip through the roped off streets of Beattyville to smell the bloomin’ onions--for a hike and a picnic.

Woolly worms are all over the roads this time of year.  I try my best not to run over them—they seem to be in such a hurry to get somewhere.  Maybe Dad’s on his way home for dinner, or Mom’s rushing to pick up the kids. 

Seriously though, they’re on their way to hibernate.  I don’t know where exactly, just across the road somewhere.   

The woolly worm races are the most interesting part of the festival, I think.  The “track” consists of a rack with strings.  The worms are placed at the bottom of the strings and told to wait for a signal, I presume.  Anyway, the first one to the top wins the race.  They can move surprisingly fast. 

I wonder who ever thought of racing woolly worms? 

Is this some sort of hillbilly tradition?  Or just some clever idea that festival organizers came up with?    

Do people train their woolly worms first?  Do they take them out to the track, so to speak, so they can run laps and build lung capacity?  I have so many unanswered questions…

The Woolly Worm is actually the caterpillar stage of the Isabella moth.  In its worm stage, it munches on your cabbage plants.  But the moth is beautiful, as all moths are; this one is medium-sized and comes in shades of yellow, orange and white. 

Beattyvillians aren’t the first to host a festival in honor of this miniature meteorologist.  There are festivals in Ohio and North Carolina that celebrate them too. 

I’ve photographed a couple of "woolly bears" this fall, and judging by their colors, I predict that we’ll have a cold snap of winter followed by a long mild spell, then the weather will be extremely cold again when March Madness rolls around and the Cats are heatin’ up. 

What do y’all say?   


  1. Hello Lisa,
    Vicki here from My Favorite Things just stopping in to say Hello!

    I do remember hearing that about those little wooly worms growing up in Kentucky. Hadn't heard anyone speak of them in ages. Your photos with the fence post, barb wire and fields sure bring back memories of living on our farm as a child.

    My family and I lived on a farm in Hardin County, Ky. My mom is still living (84 yrs old) in Ky as are most of the rest of my siblings - I have 4 sisters and 4 brothers. My sister Sue of the blog titled "Life is a Journey" lives in Upton, Ky. You should check out her blogs - she has three now and has made 2 or 3 small books out of her blog post so far. My other sister has a blog as well but hasn't had much time to blog in a while. Hers is called "Nails in My Pocket". She recently built a barn out of trees that were torn down by bad weather a few years back! Quite resourceful I'd say!

    Yes, it is wonderful to have born and raised the Kentucky way!

    Welcome to "blogland" I know you'll enjoy it hear...there are a lot of fine resourceful people out here and they are always willing to share their knowledge with others who need help!

    Sorry comment so long...and again "welcome"

    Until later...V

  2. Thanks, Vicki, for the encouragement! I'll definitely check out your sisters' blogs before long.

    I'd been thinging of starting a blog for a long time, and finally decided to go for it. So far, I'm having fun.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. Great post-and great blog! I've enjoyed reading through your first posts this chilly morning.

    I've never heard of wooly worm races-but it reminds me of when my girls were little-they got some pet catapillars-and it was all good till they decided to teach them to swim : )

    I grew up eating chocolate gravy-and I make it now too : )

  4. Thanks, Tipper! I'm glad you like my brand new blog.

    Are you from Kentucky? I'm wondering how many people from other states eat chocolate gravy. :)

    It's funny you mentioned pet caterpillars. You can buy tiny "barns" at the festival to house your pet woolly worms!