Woolly worm festival provides fun, winter weather prediction

LEWISBURG – Move over Punxsutawney Phil. Wintertime prognostication belongs to the woolly worm.

That’s the message from the 17th annual Woolly Worm festival, which is set to tell the area just what to expect in the coming winter months. The festival is held in Hufnagle Park on Saturday.

Festivities are set to kickoff starting at 9:30 a.m., with judges beginning the reading of the woolly worms at 3:30 p.m. The final announcement is expected around 4.

Ken Kulish, one of the organizers, said the family friendly event, which is being coordinated by the Kiwanis Club of Buffalo Valley AM, has grown over the past 17 years from a group gathering to read to worms to a full day of activities.

“It started out as less than a festival. It started out as a ceremony with a couple (vendor) stands,” he explained. Now the entire park is filled with vendors and activities.

Activities for children include games, a petting zoo and pony rides.

Children also will be able to put the worms to work before being judged with woolly worm races, a fan favorite.

Kulish explained that there are more than a dozen individuals out looking for and collecting woolly worms for the event. There are expected to be about 100 woolly worms used both in races and the winter prognostication.

And the entire day leads up to the main event, which sees a group of judges use their “super secret” method of predicting the upcoming weather.

“We have a crack staff of people from the Lewisburg community that do it. I don’t know the secret myself,” Kulish said.

It takes about 30 minutes for the eight judges to look at a variety of factors, such as length and ratio of black to brown stripes.

But unlike Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog that merely predicts when spring is coming, the woolly worm will tell much more.

“It forecasts not just if it’s going to come early but it pretty much tells us if it’s going to be a warm winter, if it’s going to be cold, if there’s going to be a lot of snow,” Kulish explained.

The judges even throw in an extra prediction for the children.

“The kids get excited because we boldly try to tell them how many snow days they’ll have,” Kulish joked.

He believes the festival has grown in popularity over the years because there’s so much to do, but also because there’s an interest in seeing exactly what the woolly worm predicts.