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Woolly winners

Almanac announces annual contest results

Almanac announces annual contest results

November 02, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

erinc@herald-mail.com

Six-year-old Ashley Kessler enjoys catching lightning bugs, and once she even captured a toad.

But Ashley wasn't hunting insects when she discovered this year's cutest and cuddliest woolly bear caterpillar crawling outside of her Hagerstown home. Ashley and her sister, Amy, 3, were credited with the find.

The sisters' soft, brown woolly bear won in one of two categories of the Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack's 23rd annual woolly bear contest. The winners were announced Tuesday.

When Daniel Harsh, 10, brought his 3-inch long black woolly bear to The Almanack office, Cathy Slone, who judges the insects, said it was the largest woolly bear she had seen in 20 years with The Almanack.

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Daniel's furry caterpillar won the prize for the biggest and woolliest.

Perhaps its size was the reason he fed the caterpillar more than just the grass Ashley offered her smaller woolly bear. Daniel said he gave the bug grass, part of a crabapple and lettuce, after researching on the Internet what woolly bears eat.

He also put water in the clear plastic container the woolly bear sat in on Tuesday.

Slone said children who bring in woolly bears to be judged by The Almanack often work hard on the caterpillars' temporary habitats.

"Some put apple slices and water dishes in with them," she said. "Some people go to a lot of trouble."

Ashley kept her woolly bear in a Styrofoam cup and said Tuesday was the first day she had let the insect crawl on her finger. She didn't like the way the bug's thin hair felt moving across her skin.

"I thought it was going to bite me," she said.

In a few days, Ashley said she will free her woolly bear, maybe to the exact spot she found it weeks ago.

"It could die in here," Ashley said, pointing to the cup from which the woolly bear was slowly trying to escape.

Slone said the cutest and cuddliest award typically goes to the softest, fuzziest and most active woolly bear.

"They need to have a little charisma," she said.

Ashley's woolly bear, and others that fit into the cute category, were used to predict whether area residents should expect a severe winter. The different bands on the brown, rust-colored woolly bears forecasted a very mild winter.

Slone said 20 woolly bears were entered in the contest this year, a low turnout that might have been due to dry weather. Usually, she receives 120 entries, and she remembers receiving and judging 700 one year, she said.

Not all of the entries she receives can be judged, though. Jillian Ekenberg of Hagerstown brought a woolly bear to The Almanack office and told Slone the insect died on the way.

"Obviously, we can't accept dead ones," Slone said.

Jillian later brought back three live woolly bears and was named runner-up in the biggest and woolliest category, Slone said. She received a $25 prize.

The runner-up in the cutest and cuddliest category was Travis Dehaven of Martinsburg, W.Va. He also received a $25 prize.

Ashley and Daniel each received $100 for finding the top woolly bears. Ashley said she will save part of her prize and spend some on a toy.

"It will be one that I really like, though," she said.

Daniel isn't sure what he wants to spend his money on, yet. He might buy an iPod mini, he said.

The Almanack is the nation's second-oldest continuously published periodical and recently published its 209th edition. It is distributed in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

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