Groundhog Day: Wiarton Willie predicts early spring for Ontario

Click to play video: 'Groundhog Day 2024: Wiarton Willie predicts early spring'
Groundhog Day 2024: Wiarton Willie predicts early spring
WATCH: Groundhog Day 2024: Wiarton Willie predicts early spring for Canada – Feb 2, 2024

On Friday, shortly after 8 a.m., a groundhog was carried out onto the stage at Wiarton Arena, to decide the fate of winter for Ontarians as part of annual Groundhog Day ceremonies.

South Bruce Mayor Jay Kirkland, who can speak Groundhogese, had a quick word with Wiarton Willie as the groundhog told the local politician whether he saw his shadow or not.

If Wiarton Willie saw his shadow, then we would experience six weeks more of winter. If the little rodent does not see his shadow, then Ontario would see an early spring.

After speaking with Willie, the mayor told the gathered crowd, “no shadow. Which means early spring!”

This was the third year in a row, little Willie did not see his shadow, leading to the prediction of an early spring. You can be judge as to how accurate that forecast has been.

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Click to play video: 'Groundhog Day 2024: Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring!'
Groundhog Day 2024: Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring!

The annual tradition is carried out across many North American communities on Feb. 2 with some using stuffed animals and other communities breaking out a lobster, but here in Ontario, we bring out a groundhog named Wiarton Willie.

Earlier Friday morning at Shubenacadie Wildlife Park in Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia’s most famous groundhog said no to six more weeks of winter.

Shubenacadie Sam appeared and quickly ran for cover, which locals say was an indication that she did not see her shadow.

Sam is the first groundhog in North America to make a prediction due to the province’s Atlantic time zone.

More than 300 kilometres away in Barrington, a very different animal also made a very different prediction.

Lucy the Lobster, a six-pound, 25-year-old crustacean, crawled out of the ocean and immediately saw her shadow, meaning winter will last another six weeks.

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All of the animals are overshadowed by the legendary Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania, which the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray is based upon.

Punxsutawney Phil also did not see his shadow, predicting an early spring.

There are  other major weather forecasting varmints that attract attention in Canada including Fred la Marmotte in Quebec.

Fred la Marmotte passed away last year just before the annual ceremony but the community of Val-d’Espoir has found a new whistle pig to replace him this year.

There have also been several changes of the guards so-to-speak in Wiarton as well, as Wiarton Willie IV will be making the predictions on Friday.

The deaths of past Wiarton Willies have made news, as in 1999 when organizers brought out a coffin with a white groundhog holding a carrot after having announced the groundhog’s death.

This led to children bursting out in tears at the scene where hundreds attend the ceremony.

The mayor of South Bruce would later admit that the groundhog that was on display was a stand-in.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, there was also an issue. The gathering was cancelled when the town would issue a video which showed its mayor tossing a fur hat in the air. Nine months later, the town would admit that the latest incarnation of Wiarton Willie had passed away.

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A brown fill-in would be brought in in 2022 before the town recruited a new white groundhog in 2023 to become the newest Wiarton Willie.

— with files from Canadian Press and Global News’ Alex Cooke

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