Why have a boring groundhog when you can have a taxidermied marmot dressed in period attire?
Published February 2, 2024 5:14PM (EST)
Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Ranger Dave Gustafson holds Flatiron Freddy, a stuffed yellow-bellied marmot, during the annual Groundhog Day Celebration at Chautauqua Park in Boulder on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Matthew Jonas/MediaNews Group/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images)
Every Feb. 2, the legendary Punxsutawney Phil is put to the test. The furry creature either emerges from its burrow and sees its shadow – indicating winter will drag on for another six weeks – or he doesn’t see his shadow, indicating spring will arrive early.
This Groundhog Day, the Phil did not see his shadow, signifying that in 2024 spring will supposedly be on its way to release us from the shackles of a dreary winter.
Since 1887, this highly unusual and quirky holiday tradition has been a staple in North American superstitions, predicting the seasons . . . even though the groundhog may be off sometimes. Let’s be honest, the data says that Punxsutawney Phil has only ever been accurate 30% of the time over the last 10 years. Legend has it that he’s also 137 years old, so we take all of his prognostications with a large silo of salt.
But accuracy doesn’t stop people from reveling in the kitschy Pennsylvania Dutch holiday. Even the town where the holiday is held, Punxsutawney, Penn., throws a large festival annually. The holiday’s origins date as far back as 16th-century Europe but it became a North American tradition when German immigrants came to the Americas in the 19th century. In modern times, we love Groundhog Day so much that it’s observed in countless other cities across the continent including cities in Canada. Also, Phil isn’t the only fuzzy Nostradamus with an alliterative name that claims predictive powers.
Here are many of the unexpected places all over North America that celebrate Groundhog Day:
Quarryville, Pennsylvania: Said to be a rival to Punxsutawney’s Groundhog Day celebration, Quarryville’s Octoraro Orphie used to be a contender against Punxsutawney Phil. Formed in 1907, Slumbering Groundhog Lodge hosts the other major Pennsylvania weather-predicting groundhog during this holiday, but get this. . . the groundhog doing the predicting is a stuffed – as in taxidermied – mascot named Orphie. The central Pennsylvania town also throws a parade to ring in the holiday that bridges the winter and spring.
Milltown, New Jersey: New Jersey’s beloved and long-time groundhog-in-charge was named Milltown Mel but unfortunately, Milltown’s furry friend died in 2022. It has been difficult to replace the seasoned rodent meteorologist since his passing. The town which hosts thousands for the holiday has had to cancel its celebration because organizers of the event have had challenges with New Jersey’s state regulations regarding wild animals.
Staten Island, New York: New Jersey’s beloved and long-time groundhog-in-charge was named Milltown Mel but unfortunately, Milltown’s furry friend died in 2022. It has been difficult to replace the seasoned rodent meteorologist since his passing. The town which hosts thousands for the holiday has had to cancel its celebration because organizers of the event have had challenges with New Jersey’s state regulations regarding wild animals.
Numerous other cities in the Northeast celebrate the tradition too. In Wantage, New Jersey their groundhog is Stonewall Jackson. West Orange, New Jersey has Essex Ed. In Great Neck, New York they have Great Neck Greta, and in the Hamptons, their groundhog is named Quigley. Others include Dunkirk Dave in western New York and French Creek Freddie in West Virginia.
Marion, Ohio: Marion’s Buckeye Chuck has been around since the late 1970s, one of the more recent meteorologist groundhogs, and he’s got the buggy eyes to match his quirky name. He was declared the official State Groundhog by the Ohio General Assembly in 1979. Last year, the state used a stuffed groundhog due to PETA’s complaints about the holiday but this year the state has got a brand new year-old furry Buckeye Chuck.
Washington D.C.: The nation’s capital is in on the weather-predicting groundhog fun too. One of the more well-known groundhogs, our national groundhog is Potomac Phil. The stuffed groundhog predicted the same early spring as Punxsutawney Phil. But Potomac Phil also has another trick up his sleeve – he can predict the nation’s political climate too. Sadly, Potomac Phil predicted another six months of political turmoil as the 2024 election heats up. (Did we need a groundhog to tell us that?)
In the midwest, celebrations also take place in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, whose groundhog is named Jimmy the Groundhog. Woodstock Willie is in Woodstock, Illinois which is the same shooting location in the film Groundhog Day. Concord Casimir resides in Concord, Ohio.
In the south, Birmingham Bill resides at the Birmingham Zoo in Alabama. In Raleigh, North Carolina, Sir Walter Wally used to predict the seasons, leaving Snerd of Garner as the only weather-predicting rodent. General Beauregard Lee is in Lilburn, Georgia.
Boulder, Colorado: Boulder is a little different from every other city in the country. Why have a groundhog when you can have a stuffed marmot? As one of the newer celebrations, the holiday has only been observed for 11 years in Boulder. This year, the marmot, aka Flatiron Freddy, made his annual debut and predicted spring. But he also bet on the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl, name-dropping Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce.
“In 24′, the bowl’s great fight, Chiefs and Niners in the Vegas light. While the world bets and Kelce and Swift to falter, Kansas City rises, their win no one can alter,” Freddy, who is also apparently a poet, wrote in a letter. When he’s not rhyming, Freddy also makes a strong sartorial statement (see photo).
In another departure from the groundhog majority, California, the largest state in the region, puts its trust in Mojave Maxine, a desert tortoise at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert.
Nova Scotia: Groundhog Day is not just confined to the United States — Canada also gets in on the frenzy too. Nova Scotia’s most famous groundhog Shubenacadie Sam also predicted an early spring this year even though Sam was sleeping cozily in her little home. Sam is the first groundhog in North America to predict the seasons due to the province’s Atlantic time zone.
Quebec: In French Canada, Fred la Marmotte rules the season with an iron fist. Fred has also called for an early spring just like his other Canadian counterparts. But controversy surrounded the groundhog last year as he was found dead shortly before Groundhog Day festivities. He was quickly replaced with a child picked right from the audience gathered there for the holiday. The child held up a stuffed toy groundhog in place of Fred to make the prediction. A new Fred made his debut in 2024, predicting an early springl
“But it’s all relative, like they said in the time of kings: ‘The king is dead, long live the king,’ so we’re starting again with a new groundhog,” said Roberto Blondin, an organizer of the event.
Ontario: Ontario’s resident groundhog meteorologist Wiarton Willie is a big deal in his hometown of Wiarton. The holiday is a major celebration, marked by the Wiarton Willie Festival for the town. There are dances, parades, ice hockey tournaments, games, and a fish fry. Typically 10,000 people attend making it one of Ontario’s most popular events.
Other Groundhog Day celebrations across Canada are in Manitoba, Winnipeg, Alberta, and Vancouver Island.
Nardos Haile is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She’s previously covered all things entertainment, music, fashion and celebrity culture at The Associated Press. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.
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