ASHEVILLE — Western North Carolina is keeping a close eye on the gathering of woolly worms at the annual festival that salutes them.
The 35th annual Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk got under way Saturday. During the weekend, the worm that wins a race will decide the region's winter forecast.
The caterpillars have black and brown bands, with one color sometimes dominating the other. Folklore says black is associated with snowy weather, while brown is an indicator of mild conditions.
Sue Freeman of the Avery County Chamber of Commerce said most of the woolly worms she's seen recently have been black.
The National Weather Service has predicted that October will be cooler than normal, but November and December will be slightly warmer than normal.