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Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack woolly bear contest disbanded

September 27, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Woolly Bear contest winners are shown in this Herald-Mail file photo. The Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack announced Thursday that it's ending its woolly bear contest, in which youngsters hunted for black-and-brown-banded caterpillars.
Herald-Mail file photo

HAGERSTOWN — The annual quest for the “Cutest and Cuddliest” and “Biggest and Woolliest” has ended.

The Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack announced Thursday that it’s ending its woolly bear contest, in which youngsters hunted for black-and-brown-banded caterpillars.

In its prime, the contest had a flood of entries. The highest total was around 1,600, said Gerald W. Spessard, the publication’s business and sales manager.

But interest has nearly dried up. Last year, there were only three entries, Spessard said.

The woolly bear contest started about 30 years ago. It was held every October.

First place in either the “cutest” or “biggest” categories was awarded $100.

Folksy lore was attached to the contest — the idea that the width of the caterpillars’ bands could predict the coming winter.

Spessard said participation dropped off drastically when Washington County Public Schools stopped including the contest in its curriculum several years ago. He said he used to visit a class and leave with dozens of entries, especially in Clear Spring, where a science teacher always got into the spirit of the contest.

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Spessard said Frank Leiter, who died in 2008, got a kick out of judging the contest every year.

The contest was suspended in 2006 because of low participation. At the time, Spessard said the number of entries had dropped from around 800 to about 20, leading to the cancellation.

Spessard recalled Thursday that there was a public outcry over the end of the contest that year, so it was revived in 2007, when there were 76 entries.

Despite attempts to market the contest more — even through a Facebook page last year — it has withered.

“It’s unfortunate,” Spessard said, “but everything runs its course.”

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