Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Holland Huckleberry sees shadow; predicts winter to continue

The Toledo area's weather predicting groundhog, Holland Huckleberry, saw his shadow early Monday morning at his Springfield Township home.

That means the unthinkable: Another six weeks of winter is on the way.

But for local residents, that should be no surprise. Recent January weather brought extreme cold and more than 30 inches of snow to the area.

Article appeared in earlier editions of The Blade and

Prognosticating fauna prepared for day in sun (or clouds)

A flurry of four-footed furry forecasters has alarm clocks set for sunrise Monday. They have things to do, people to see, weather to predict.

Holland Huckleberry, a rascal of a rodent, a whisker-twitching local luminary, will pop out of his burrow promptly at 7:55 this morning at his home in Springfield Township.

Will the seer of the season predict six more weeks of winter? Or (please, please, please) an early, warm spring?

Only the shadow knows.

With snow tracking this way, Hucky could see clouds, not sunshine, on this Groundhog Day.

If he doesn't cast a shadow, oh happy days. That means an early, and warm, spring.

But if the groundhog sees his shadow, expect six more weeks of harsh winter weather.

Hucky, as he's known to his friends and family, is one of many woodchucks, chickens, llamas, porcupines, and other critters across the country who show off their penchant for prediction each and every Feb. 2, rain or shine, sleet or snow.

Yes, indeed. Other headline-grabbing animals, such as Furby the Wonder Chicken and Spike the Porcupine, have stepped in when duty called. A llama nicknamed Zac, according to online Groundhog Day lore, learned the art of weather prognosticating from Noah John of Oxford, Mich., just before the one-eyed groundhog died in 2002 as a result of injuries suffered in a traffic accident four years earlier.

But mostly, it's groundhogs with catchy names - Pennichuck Chuck in New Hampshire, French Creek Freddie in West Virginia, Dunkirk Dave in New York, Sir Walter Wally in North Carolina - which put the playful punch in the mid-winter holiday.

It's a cold fact that groundhogs somehow warm the heart. How else to explain the T-shirts, stuffed animals, key chains, postcards, photographs, and other mass produced souvenirs that sell like wildfire for the wild animal kingdom of weather-predicting groundhogs?

Carrying coffee and cookies, cupcakes and breakfast casseroles, unofficial groundhog sighting squads started to show up before sunrise today at various looky-lou locations.

Many Groundhog Day events are public events. Some are private, such as the one at the home of Terri and Charlie Hoag where Hucky lives.

But at each, party plans are much the same. People show up, the groundhog wakes up.

In Michigan, a female woodchuck named Woody will greet guests at the Howell Conference & Nature Center, about 84 miles north of Toledo, where her Groundhog Day prediction will occur at 8:10 a.m., said Dick Grant, executive director of the center.

This will be Woody's 11th annual prediction which, he said, is more scientific than the one issued annually by Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania where, supposedly, the groundhog whispers "shadow" or "no shadow" in a handler's ear. The handler then makes the grand announcement to a crowd of thousands at Gobbler's Knob.

This morning, Woody will trade her winter habitat for a man-made stump. "We spread food on the veranda of the stump. It's a little stage we use," Mr. Grant said.

"We give Woody a minute to decide. If she comes out and munches on peanuts, bananas, and the grapes, then there's a pretty good chance we will have an early spring because she's active and eating. If she refuses to come out, or if she comes out and heads back in, she's not ready to become active and there will be six more weeks of winter. We let Woody decide for herself. Nobody whispers in anyone's ear."

She's correct 70 percent of the time, compared to Phil at 60 percent, he said.

Here in Ohio, Buckeye Chuck will check for his shadow in Marion, continuing the holiday tradition there. Hot drinks and Spam burgers are on the menu.

In Toledo, a Good Morning Groundhog program is planned at Wildwood Preserve Metropark from 9 to 11 a.m. today. Participants can crawl through a tunnel to get an idea of what life is like for groundhogs. In addition to games and a nature walk, you can get up close and personal with Wildwood Willie, the Metroparks' official weather predictor. There's no chance he will bite anyone. He's dead.

Wildwood Willie, however, is a real groundhog. He's just stuffed with fluff. He only became a star after he was stuffed, said Scott Carpenter, Metroparks spokesman. "Like all great artists, he became more famous after he died."

Although the Toledo Zoo began with a single groundhog (seriously), no special holiday events are planned today.

"We have no groundhogs or woodchucks. The zoo got started with one, but we currently don't have one," said Andi Norman, zoo spokesman.

In anticipation of the holiday, the Hoags brought Hucky up from their basement over the weekend to warm him up and get him a bit more active.

"Most of the winter, he does not move at all. He's completely rolled up in a ball. All you see is fur. He tucks his head between his back legs," Mr. Hoag said.

Today, Hucky will wear his patriotic hat, the same hat he wears during parade appearances. "He always wears the hat," said Mr. Hoag, who made a float with a military theme for Hucky to ride on. During parades last year in Holland, Maumee, Swanton, and Wauseon, Hucky and his family collected donations for Honor Flight of Northwest Ohio. So far, $1,400 has been donated, and the Hoags hope to bring in $200 more today. That way, there would be sufficient funds to send four Springfield Township veterans to Washington to visit the National World War II Memorial.

Hucky, who likes guinea pig food and goldfish crackers - the small ones; he won't touch the big goldfish - and sucks up dried, sweetened cranberries like a vacuum sweeper, won't be awake for long on Groundhog Day.

He will, though, make appearances at two Springfield Township schools.

"He will go back in the basement later in the day," Mr. Hoag said. "By 5 p.m., he will be sound asleep and he won't get up 'til March."

If Hucky predicts six more weeks of winter, who could blame him?

Better yet, who wants to join him?

Contact Janet Romaker at:

or 419-724-6006.

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