HOPE — Hope Grown Grubby was beckoned Monday morning to give her prediction during the first Groundhog Day ceremony in Bartholomew County.
“Grubby … awake from your slumber and tell us the news. If your shadow you see, six weeks more of the blues,” said David Miller, one of four local officials donning top hats for the ceremony.
Before a crowd of at least 50 onlookers huddled outdoors in 18-degree conditions, the year-old groundhog — on leave for the morning from UTOPIA Wildlife Rehabilitators southeast of Hope — was held above her wooden carrier at 8 a.m. as officials conferred.
Their official determination? No shadow. According to legend, spring is just around the corner for Bartholomew County.
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As onlookers in the town square spread word of an early spring through social media, they began getting updates from Grubby’s competitor in Gobbler’s Knob, 450 miles to the northeast in west central Pennsylvania.
But unlike Grubby, whose observation was welcomed during the ceremony led by UTOPIA founder Kathy Hershey, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow. According to folklore, that means six more weeks of winter.
While some in Hope chuckled at the description of their groundhog as a “miracle varmint,” they preferred Grubby’s prediction over Phil’s.
Records going back to 1887 show Phil has predicted an early spring just 17 times.
Besides different predictions, there were other notable contrasts between the two ceremonies.
At Gobbler’s Knob, those who preside over the Groundhog Day event describe themselves as the Inner Circle, who decide on the forecast ahead of time.
Their Hope counterparts — Miller, David Webster, Chuck Baker and Michael Dean — prefer the label of Grubby’s Groupies.
They refused to acknowledge the presence of overcast skies prior to their proclamation.
The wording used by Phil’s Inner Circle for the nationally televised observance has been updated for the 21st Century.
“Forecasts abound on the Internet, but, I, Punxsutawney Phil, am still your best bet. Yes, a shadow I see, you can start to Twitter, hash tag: Six more weeks of winter!”
But in Hope, which takes its heritage seriously, more traditional wording was deployed to announce their more agreeable prognostication.
“No shadow she sees, the groundhog has spoken. Winter’s long spell will shortly be broken,” Webster announced.
So who is likely to be right — Grubby or Phil?
A Purdue University weather expert who relies on science rather than folklore to determine the chances of an early spring said it’s too soon to tell.
“From what I’ve seen, the long-term weather models are noncommittal,” associate state climatologist Ken Scheeringa said. “South-central Indiana has an equal chance of above or below average temperatures for the next month-and-a-half.”
Baker said myths such as the Groundhog Day forecast tie our present to the distant past, when nature had an even greater influence on agricultural-dependent lives.
“We have a natural asset, and we need to take advantage of it,” Baker said.
The appreciation of an old-fashioned Groundhog Day observance was evident during the post-ceremony reception in Strawberry Fields Mercantile and Auntie Aimee’s Country Tea Room on the north side of the square.
Made-from-scratch muffins and cinnamon rolls were served on traditional china with fine silverware and cloth napkins.
The crowd attending Grubby’s inaugural prediction was more than double what tea room officials had been expecting for their reception, the restaurant’s Rachel Pence said.
But Webster said even larger crowds are likely to emerge in future Groundhog Day festivities.
“It’s kind of like the Hope Ride,” Webster said. “I believe the first year we started with 13 bicyclists, and now, we’re up to about 2,000. So who knows?”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Hope Grown Grubby’s Call To Duty:
“Grubby … awake from your slumber and tell us the news.
If your shadow you see, six weeks more of the blues.
If no shadow in sight, we all will rejoice.
Spring will be here soon. Oh, tell us your choice.”
Proclamation of Grubby’s prediction for 2015:
“No shadow she sees, the groundhog has spoken.
Winter’s long spell will shortly be broken
I suspect some are sad, some are glad.
But I suspect Grubby is just indifferent.”