WIARTON, Ont. — Canada’s prognosticating rodents are split on whether the country is in for an early spring or six more weeks of winter.
Wiarton Willie, Canada’s most celebrated of all its furry forecasters, is predicting an early spring, siding with Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil — generally regarded as the groundhog of record.
But Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam and Quebec’s Fred are calling for more cold weather.
Manitoba’s lesser known woodchuck, Winnipeg Willow, will be next to weigh in. She’ll be visiting a Mountain Equipment Co-op store to make her prediction.
Folklore has it that if a groundhog sees its shadow on Groundhog Day it’ll flee back to its burrow, heralding six more weeks of winter, and if it doesn’t, it means spring’s just around the corner.
Hundreds bundled up this morning to watch Willie emerge, many slipping on woodchuck masks or toting figurines of the famous rodent.
Willie’s prognostication is the marquee moment of a three-day festival in his honour.
Kristin Otten, who was crowned the festival’s queen, said she was a bit disappointed with the groundhog’s call.
“I’m kind of sad about that because I really love the snow. But we’ll see what happens,” she said.
Others suggested the forecast isn’t as important as the celebration itself.
“We only get to do this once a year,” said Jerzy Bohatkiewicz, who has gone to the annual event for the last eight years.
“There’s a reason for us to be here, to get out of bed at five in the morning, so we can find each other amongst this crowd here, find a little corner where we can all laugh and cheer and have fun —no matter what.”
Shubenacadie Sam was the first out of his burrow this morning to make his prediction to a worldwide audience via webcam.
Fred was next with his forecast in Val d’Espoir, a community in the Gaspesie region.