In spite of late afternoon rain threats, the 7th Annual Sopchoppy Worm Gruntin' Festival, held this past Saturday, April 14, proved to be another huge crowd pleaser! Visitors came out in droves to enjoy the truly unique event in quaint, downtown Sopchoppy.
The vendors began selling their wares bright and early at 8:00 a.m., and many "early birds" came out to get the best deals. Shoppers had their choice of over 60 different booths loaded with wonderful arts and crafts, plants, jewelry, and tasty treats.
The Worm Gruntin' 5K Run began right on time at 9:00 a.m., and this year over 50 runners came out to enjoy the mostly flat, scenic course. Brett Templeton was the overall winner in this year's race. Please click here for a detailed article containing complete race results, including all participants and their rankings. (As a side note, Dave Barry from the Miami Herald linked to our Wakulla.com article advertising the race, and over 2000 people read the article because of it! For some reason, Barry found the idea of "running with the worms" to be quite humorous ...)
The fun continued with the annual Worm Gruntin' Contest, which drew a large crowd of young ones who wanted to try their hand at grunting up a worm or two. Local professional worm grunter Gary Revell gave a presentation to interested onlookers prior to the contest, demonstrating the art of what he calls "rooping", which is drawing a flat blade back and forth across a wooden stake that has been driven into the ground. The motion of the blade against the stake causes the stake to vibrate, which drives the worms up out of the earth. Gary and his wife Audrey have been grunting worms in the Apalachicola National Forest for 50 years. After about an hour of grunting, the kids with the most worms were declared the victors. This year's Worm Gruntin' Contest winners were:
1st Place: Zachery Heidenreich
2nd Place: Fairl Thomas
3rd Place: Junior Cantrel
3rd Place: Shelby Hawkins
4th Place: Sarah Walker
Blind Dillon entertained the crowd with their boogie and blues sounds as the fun continued with the Casting Contest and the Horseshoe Championship. Unfortunately, the winners of the casting contest were lost as the official list was destroyed by rain, so contest organizer Robert Seidler graciously gave each participant a prize. This year's Horseshoe Championship winners were:
1st Place: Tyrone Proctor
2nd Place: Davis Wooten
3rd Place: Darrell Richardson
1st Place: Zach Hale
2nd Place: Austin Cruse
The second annual Hula Hoop Contest was the final competitive event of the day, with a large crowd of young and old "hoopsters" getting in on the action. This year's Hula Hoop Contest winners were:
Kids 12 and Under
1st Place: Hannah Tinsley
2nd Place: Shacarra Johnson
Teen (13 - 21)
1st Place: Jackson Geiger
2nd Place: Shelby Chane
Adult (21 - 35)
1st Place: Amanda Jenkins
Expert (Over 35)
1st Place: Sue Early
2nd Place: Lauren Geiger
Rick Ott and the Rhythm Ramblers came on stage at around 5:00 to get the evening started, and the Worm Grunter's Ball officially kicked off at 7:00 p.m. with music by none other than "The Sauce Boss" himself, jazz artist Bill Wharton. Wharton entertained the crowd with his fantastic music, all the while preparing a huge pot of gumbo which he served up to the crowd at the end of his show.
Said event volunteer Cindy Jordan, "The Worm Grunter's Ball was AWESOME!!!! We had a little rain about the time Rick Ott and the Rhythm Ramblers started, but the evening was absolutely wonderful after that. By the time Bill Wharton came on, it was clear and beautiful with a nice breeze . . . he was like the Pied Piper . . . he came off the stage and the children loved him . . . he brought his guitar out and danced with us and played his pot (with drumsticks) . . . and cooked and served up his gumbo . . . a show like no other. It was the best one yet . . . put it on your calendar for next year . . . Saturday, April 12, 2008."
If you didn't get a chance to come out for this year's festival, you've simply got to make it a priority to attend next year so that you can say "I did it all at the Worm Grunter's Ball!" The Sopchoppy Worm Gruntin' Festival is a truly unique event that you won't want to miss! It just keeps getting better every year!
The organizers of the Worm Gruntin' Festival would like to thank the following sponsors for helping make this year's event such a huge success:
Capital City Bank
The organizers would also like to thank the following volunteers. The Worm Gruntin' Festival could not happen without their dedication and hard work!
Cindy Strickland Jordan
Debbie Strickland Chane
Nic Christie with Seidler Productions
Sheriff David Harvey
Wakulla County Sheriff's Department
Wakulla Sheriff’s Department Auxilliary
This article originally published on April 19, 2007.