On the Beat 2/2/16

It’s Groundhog Day

Rosie and the Groundhog Day tradition
By Jim Bucher

So, today (that is, Tuesday, Feb. 2) is a big day in the meteorology world. No, it’s not the launch date for a new high-tech weather satellite or some new atmospheric app, but by the time you read this, we will know for sure how the rest of the winter’s going to go. And it’s all thanks to a groundhog.

But how did this all begin, and why would we leave it to beaver—or rather a groundhog—to predict the weather?

Well, funny you asked. According to history.com, back in 1887, Groundhog Day was celebrated for the first time at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. As goes the tradition, if the aforementioned animal sees its shadow, we’re in for another six flippin’ weeks of winter. If no shadow is spotted, we get an early spring.

Groundhog Day has its roots in the ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas Day, when men of the cloth would hand out candles needed for winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be. The Germans expanded on this deal by selecting an animal—in this case, the hedgehog—as a means of predicting what Mother Nature was going to dish out.

When German folk settled in Pennsylvania, the tradition continued, but “hedge” was replaced with  “ground,” keeping it in the hog family, members of which were plentiful in the Keystone State. At the time, a newspaper editor belonging to a group of groundhog hunters called the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club declared that Phil, the Punxsutawney groundhog, was America’s only true weather forecasting groundhog and the tradition was born. The purely American celebration that exists today has grown in popularity over the years and continues to be enjoyed by millions across the United States.

Bill Murray’s 1993 film classic “Groundhog Day” shot on location in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, made it even more popular and now tens of thousands of people descend each year for the three-day celebration. All this for a groundhog.

Now, Phil may be the original, but other cities and towns across our country host their own weather-predicting rodents, from Birmingham Bill to Staten Island Chuck to our very own Rosie at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. I personally covered the shadow/no shadow event every year at Channel 2, but lots of times, Rosie’s predictions didn’t mesh with our meteorologists and their high-tech Doppler equipment.

Rosie came to the museum in 2011 from the Wildlife Center of Minnesota. She was found injured on the road and is partially blind in one eye. Even after rehabilitation, it was determined that she lacked the skills and ability to survive in the wild.

“Rosie is a little older now, and her years of experience are a real benefit as we work to get ready for her big day,” notes Mark Mazzei, the Boonshoft curator of live animals, who will interpret the forecast for the anxious spectators this year.

Rosie has been dedicated to a rigorous training schedule with her human assistant Melissa Proffitt, coordinator of animal training and programming in the museum’s Discovery Zoo, and is earning top marks from her coaches as she gets ready for the annual event.

Rosie, who has been known to communicate through her trainer on rare occasions, tells us she is excited to do her part to keep this annual tradition alive, predicting either an early spring or six more weeks of winter when she emerges from her groundhog burrow.

“I heard that people were voting for their preference through something called a ‘poll’ on the museum’s Facebook page,” Rosie says. “As a professional marmot prognosticator, I cannot allow my learned opinion to be swayed by the public. However, I can say I hope the children will be happy with my prediction this year.”

So by the time you read this, Rosie will have popped her head out, and we’ll know what’s left of winter.

Either way, my personal guess? By June, it will be warm. Didn’t need a rodent to tell me that.

Cheers!

Buch

For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com

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For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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