The groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, is a rodent belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. It is widely distributed across North America.
“They’re known for their aggression, so you’re starting from a hard place. [Their] natural impulse is to kill ’em and let God sort ’em out. You have to work to produce the sweet and cuddly.”
The name “woodchuck” has nothing to do with wood or chucking. It stems from an Algonquin name for the animal – wuchak.
Wiarton Willie is a Canadian albino groundhog who lived in Wiarton, in Bruce County, Ontario. Every Groundhog Day, February 2, Willie is part of the local Wiarton Willie Festival. His job is to predict whether there will be an early spring or not.
The story that is Willie Wiarton was born in 1956. Wiarton resident Mac McKenzie wanted to showcase his hometown to his friends, so he sent out invitations to his friends. Somehow, it came to the attention of the Toronto Star. So the newspaper sent a young journalist to investigate. The reporter made his way to Wiarton. Once there, he had some difficulty finding the celebration. After asking around town, he finally found McKenzie and his friends whooping it up at the Arlington Hotel, the local bar. The small group of friends invited him to join them.
The following day, however, the reporter lamented about the lack of a story which would cover his expenses. So McKenzie took his wife’s fur hat, went to the parking lot, dug a burrow in the snow and threw the hat in.
A picture of Mackenzie and the had were published in the February 3 edition of the Toronto Star. A year later, 50 people arrived for the Festival — among them the CBC and the Canadian Press. The Festival has taken on a life of its own, and now boasts some 10,000 visitors every year!
Wiarton Willie Groundhog Day Festival has been called “one of the most popular events in Ontario” and has been named more than once, “the world’s greatest events” by Seattle’s festival.com (now defunct). Events include dances, parades, ice hockey tournaments,curling, sleigh rides and so much more.
You can find many such winter predictions in many cities around North America: Punxsutawney Phil of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (as featured in the movie Groundhog Day); Brandon Bob in Brandon, Manitoba; Staten Island Chuck in New York; Balzac Billie in Alberta; General Beauregard Lee in Lilburn, Georgia; Shubenacadie Sam in Nova Scotia; Gary the Groundhog in Kleinburg, Ontario – just to name a few.
Did you know …
The date could have been influenced by the celts who celebrated the midway between the winter solstice and spring equinox.
Willie and his colleagues have 22 teeth.
They can swim, climb trees and run as fast as 15 km/hour.
Farrah Fawcett, Tom Smothers, and Christie Brinkley were born on Groundhog Day.
- Goodbye winter, hello spring: Ontario’s Wiarton Willie doesn’t see his shadow (vancouversun.com)
- Groundhog Day: Canada’s furry forecasters at odds over early spring (theprovince.com)
- Ontario’s Wiarton Willie doesn’t see shadow, meaning spring just around the corner (timescolonist.com)
- Groundhog Day: No shadow for Wiarton Willie, early spring predicted (ctvnews.ca)
- Wiarton Willie doesn’t see shadow, spring just around the corner (blogs.windsorstar.com)
- It’s Groundhog Day (again) and the rodents can’t agree when spring will come (news.nationalpost.com)
- Wiarton Willie predicts early spring on Groundhog Day (lfpress.com)
- Punxsutawney Phil predicts early spring after failing to see shadow on Groundhog Day (cbsnews.com)
- Famous Groundhog Makes Prediction (weather.aol.com)
- West Virginia State Wildlife Center to Celebrate Groundhog Day (prweb.com)