Crazy for Caterpillars!

April 21, 2011

Each fall, the town of Vermilion gets wild about the woollybear, a small, fuzzy, orange and black caterpillar.

The woollybear wackiness began almost four decades ago. Dick Goddard, Northeast Ohio TV weatherman (Fox 8 TV Cleveland), tossed around an idea about a celebration built around using the woollybear to predict the severity of the coming winter with a few friends and co-workers. Similar to the century-old tradition of Groundhog Day, where the groundhog emerging from his hole predicts the end of winter, folklore suggests that the woollybear caterpillar can predict the severity of the upcoming winter – gauged by the amount of black versus orange in the caterpillars’ bands.

In 1972 newly-elected officers of the Parent Teachers Association at the Firelands-Florence Township Elementary School in the small Erie County community of Birmingham were looking for fundraising ideas. They heard about Goddard’s idea of a Woollybear Festival, contacted him, and offered to stage the festival with his help.

The first festival, held in Birmingham, attracted approximately 2,000 people. It became more popular each year and after eight years the crowd had grown to 15,000 and was causing gridlock on the highways into the small community. The festival was then moved to Vermilion, just nine miles north of Birmingham.

Dick Goddard and the Vermilion Chamber of Commerce will host this year’s 39th Annual Woollybear Festival on October 9, 2011 with a variety of caterpillar-inspired activities including the Woollybear Parade, Woollybear 500 Caterpillar Race, Woollybear Winter Weather Prediction, woollybear costume look-a-like animal contests, woollybear crafts and much more. Fox 8 TV personalities will also be signing autographs.

The Woollybear Festival also offers a variety of live entertainment, food booths, craft booths and merchant sales. It is the largest one-day festival in Ohio, drawing over 100,000 people each year!

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