Given the opportunity, humans will celebrate anything.
Take Groundhog Day. Since 1887, every February in Pennsylvania, thousands gather to catch a glimpse of “Punxsutawney Phil” to see if he’ll glimpse his own shadow.
A less well-known but no less peculiar weather forecaster is the “Woolly Worm” of Banner Elk, North Carolina. Since 1978, the 13 segments of this fuzzy caterpillar have been analyzed every October at the “Woolly Worm Festival.” Each segment supposedly corresponds to the 13 weeks of winter, with more black fuzz meaning more winter and more brown fuzz forecasting less cold and snow. A race along 3 feet of string determines which lucky caterpillar will win the honors. “Dale Wormhardt” and “Patsy Climb” were two notable winners in years past.
In Freer, Texas, there’s the “Rattlesnake Roundup” festival, while in Clute, Texas, they devote three days in July to their annual “Mosquito Festival.” In Gulfport, Florida, “GeckoFest” brings in thousands of visitors each September, or you can attend “Bugfest” in Raleigh, North Carolina, featuring a flea circus and roach races, all while sampling a Buggy Bean Dip or Three Bug Salad.
I think I’ll pass.
A less nightmare-inducing festival held each May in Brevard, North Carolina is “The White Squirrel Festival.” For three days, the town celebrates its locally famous snow-white squirrels believed to be the descendants of a lucky pair who escaped a carnival truck that overturned in 1949.
The white squirrels of Brevard have yet to confirm this origin story. Meanwhile, Olney, Illinois; Marionville, Missouri; Kenton, Tennessee; and Exeter, Ontario also claim to be the official “home of the legendary white squirrel.”
But there may be a new contender to add to the elite “Home of the White Squirrel” list. Not to be outdone, Logan Martin Lake can also lay claim to white squirrel sightings. Tim Badgwell photographed these frost-white squirrels frolicking about at Sundance Marina.
They’re not albino squirrels, although it’s easy to make that mistake. The key is to look at their eyes. Like some rabbits, albino squirrels have red or pink eyes due to a complete lack of melanin, while genetically white squirrels have dark eyes since they are simply a rare morph of the eastern grey squirrel.
Although Logan Martin might not be ready for its own white squirrel festival, spotting one is supposed to bring you good luck, symbolizing a change on the horizon. But maybe humans simply have a tendency to look for luck and excitement in the rare and never-before-seen.
We all welcome a break from the average day-to-day, even if it means looking to a groundhog to predict the weather, celebrating a snake, dressing up like a gecko, or mimicking a mosquito. Sometimes we need to shake things up by sampling a new food (or bug as the case may be). Or, simply find a moment to walk by the lake and remember that something as small as seeing a white squirrel is still something to celebrate.