Groundhog Day: accurate or folklore?

BY GRACE DOVE

The tradition dates back at least 1,500 years. It was first brought to this country by German and Scottish settlers. It was first recorded in Pennsylvania in 1841, in Morgantown, Berks County.

Groundhog Day went big-time in the 1800s when the Groundhog Club in the little town of Punxsutawney started holding well-publicized celebrations. Phil, its resident rodent has made his predictions there for more than 120 years, according to the Web site groundhog.org

“I can’t say whether it is or it isn’t” accurate, said Bill Pencek, Wyoming County Cooperative Extension’s agriculture and natural resource educator. Penn State hasn’t done any agricultural research on the groundhog, he added.

Farmer Vic Cappucci of Mehoopany agrees with Pencek. While visiting his son in Punxsutawney about 15 years ago, Cappucci decided to check Phil out. “They make a big hoopla with that little guy,” he said, chuckling.

Cappucci said his cows are better forecasters – when they lie down on the low side of a hill, he knows a storm is on the way.

Dimock columnist LeJune Ely says at least one local groundhog hasn’t gone underground this winter. Instead it prefers to stay outside and eat the grass at the home of Don and Joan Woods. Residents there aren’t sure what the rodent’s weather forecast will be.

According to groundhog.org, the little guy predicted six more weeks of winter from 2004-06. National Weather Service records say that March temperatures during that period were close to normal.

The Noreaster, the NWS’ newsletter predicts that the rest of the winter should be milder than normal due. The NWS blames El Nino and other weather patterns, not the groundhog.

More information on groundhogs will be presented in a special free kids’ show, “Groundhog’s Shadow” on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 10:30 a.m. at the Tunkhannock Public Library. Rebecca Lesko of the Endless Mountains Nature Center will read a short story, “Groundhog’s Garden,” and talk about the tradition of Groundhog Day. Co-sponsored by the library, the program for children in grades K-2 will also feature a perky groundhog puppet who will describe its life. The kids should bring a good flashlight, so they can explore the world of shadows.

For more information call 836-3835 or click on the Web site www.EMNConline.org.