The annual Woolly Worm Festival returns to the High Country this weekend. 

People have come to celebrate the folklore of this winter-predicting caterpillar for more than 40 years. 

At the heart of the festival are the worm-racing contests. The winning worm has the honor of serving as kind of a local fall version of Groundhog Day’s Punxsutawney Phil, predicting the severity of the upcoming winter. 

According to legend, the 13 bands or segments of the worm line up with the 13 weeks of winter. And the band's color corresponds with that week’s weather. Darker bands foreshadow colder and snowier weather and lighter ones mean a milder winter.  

The festival will be held at the Historic Banner Elk Elementary School on Saturday and Sunday. It also features food, arts and crafts, and live performances. 

Organizers say more than 20,000 people attended last year.

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