Officials of the annual Woolly Worm Festival say that Saturday’s caterpillar races will include something new--drug tests for the winners.
A group of local health professionals, including a veterinarian, will set up a laboratory on the festival grounds to ensure that the competition remains clean, spokeswoman Catherine Morton said.
No macho, steroid-munching woolly worms allowed.
“We will have a woolly worm first aid booth,” said Robert Klingensmith, a chiropractor who will be one of the medical team members. “There will be all kinds of little facts about woolly worm health and nutrition, weight training, CPR and gait analysis.”
Judging for the woolly worm race, which requires contestants to crawl up a piece of twine, has always been a tall order. This year, Banner Elk recruited Tom Burleson, the 7-foot-4 former center with North Carolina State and the Seattle Supersonics, to judge the event.
The winner of each heat gets $30. Two semi-final matches will be held, and the winner of those will receive $100. The final round is a two-worm match race with a $500 prize.
But, more importantly, the winner earns the honor of being the official winter forecaster for the area. People have said for generations that by looking at the relationship of the stripes on the worm, a person can determine how severe the winter will be.