Jim Morton had no clue that putting a blade of grass in front of a woolly worm would lead to a festival that brings almost 20,000 people, 160 vendors, 1,000 worm trainers, and national media teams to the village of Banner Elk.
Morton was a founding member of the Woolly Worm Festival. "My first fall in this region was in October 1973," Morton recalls. "That's when I discovered the woolly worm's significance in local legend. Woolly worms are employed to foretell winter, according to a Grandfather Mountain employee ".
Morton, who was always interested in local history, filed the information away. "Several years later, I was asked to a conference where they were attempting to come up with some ideas for forming a merchant's organization in Banner Elk." It was only a preliminary meeting. Although I was not a trader, I accepted the offer to attend the conference. I informed those present that I felt Banner Elk would benefit from some kind of yearly event. At Grandfather Mountain, I know that the Highland Games and Singing on the Mountain were crucial to our public relations efforts.
"I had finished a woolly worm publication for which I labored the day before the meeting." Because we were approaching the deadline, I'd done the forecast with the very first worm I discovered that year. When I eventually came upon a woolly worm, it was totally brown from head to tail.