OWEN SOUND -- Wiarton Willie courted disaster Sunday morning under cloudy skies when he somehow saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter.
Sporting a white tuxedo, purple cape and black top hat, John Close, mayor of South Bruce Peninsula, bowed over Willie on a stage to translate the marmot's whispered “groundhogese” at 8:07 a.m. and reported the news.
Oh dear not sure I wanna share this #sixmoreweeksofwinter— Wiarton Willie (@willieofficial) February 2, 2014
“No!!!” roared hundreds as they heard it. Festival lore says if Willie didn't see his shadow, it would have meant an early spring. But since spring normally wouldn't arrive for six weeks anyway, the crowd changed its tune and cheered for six more weeks of snow. Then it booed again for snow shovelling.
The pressure has been building on the albino groundhog this month to call for winter's early exit. Wiarton saw 139 cm of snowfall in January alone, prompting rare blizzard warnings early this month, frequent school bus cancellations and some high school final exams were called off.
Over four days of events there were winter games, horse-drawn sleigh rides, dances, a parade and many other family-oriented activities.
The festival is “like an old-home weekend,” where lots of family come back to Wiarton to visit, festival chair Mary Lynn Standen this week. “It's like Thanksgiving and Christmas, only it's Groundhog Day.”
Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil, the most famous weather-predicting rodent in the U.S., also predicted six more weeks of winter.
But earlier in the morning, Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam begged to differ, forecasting an early spring.
No Shadow! I repeat, No Shadow!— Shubenacadie Sam (@ShubenacadieSam) February 2, 2014
An Alberta's Balzac Billy, who isn't a real rodent but someone dressed as a groundhog, popped his head out of his burrow and issued the same verdict as Sam.
- With files from QMI Agency