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Woolly bear contest is back in black

November 03, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

A black-and-fuzzy tradition returned to Washington County after a year of hibernation - woolly bear judging.

The Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack canceled its annual caterpillar contest last year because of low participation.

Business Manager Jerry Spessard said the number of entries had dropped enormously, from around 800 to about 20. The Washington County school system hardly participates anymore, he said.

The Almanack tried again this year, though, and got 76 entries.

In the "biggest and woolliest" category, Brooke Graybill, 12, of Smithsburg, won with a woolly bear that curled itself into a lump and didn't move.

Kimberly Carbaugh, 9, of Clear Spring, won in the "cutest and cuddliest" category. Her winner, which she found on the family farm, was lively; it continually crawled on a table.

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The woolly bear contest is a publicity event for the Almanack, which bills the caterpillars as harbingers of the coming winter. The size of the caterpillars' bands is supposed to predict how cold the coming days will be.

This year's forecast, according to the critters' bodies - a harsh first half of the winter, followed by a mild second half.

For Brooke and Kimberly, the revival of the contest meant $100 first-place prizes.

Brooke, a seventh-grader at Smithsburg Middle School, already had agreed to split her prize with her 11-year-old brother, Briar.

Brooke and Briar searched for woolly bears in the woods near their home.

Each entered one woolly bear for "biggest and woolliest" and three or four for "cutest and cuddliest," said their grandmother, Ada Graybill.

It actually was Ada Graybill who spotted the winning mammoth woolly while walking her dog.

With her share, Brooke planned to buy new shoes and save the rest.

Asked about her prize, Kimberly, who is home-schooled, said, "I'm gonna spend most of it on my family. Then, I'll save about 50 percent."

She expected to spend some on Christmas gifts, and some on her brother Reagan's birthday. He will turn 4 years old in January.

Their mother, Donna Carbaugh, said Reagan seemed disappointed when Kimberly found out she won, probably because he felt excluded.

"He was curled on the couch, like a caterpillar," Kimberly said.

Brooke and Kimberly also won five copies apiece of the 2008 Almanack.

The runners-up each won $25.

Sawyer Rachor of Hagerstown had the runner-up entry for "biggest and woolliest," according to the Almanack.

Jillian Ekberg of Hagerstown had the runner-up caterpillar for "cutest and cuddliest."

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