Grubby the Groundhog has spoken.
The 2-year-old groundhog gazed out upon the parking lot of Mill Race Center and rendered her Groundhog Day verdict.
“No shadow she sees. The groundhog has spoken. The winter’s long spell soon will be broken,” translated David Force, master of prognosticating ceremonies, to a crowd of about 60 people Tuesday morning.
Translation: Expect an early spring.
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Force said he has been practicing his “groundhog-ese” at the center for the past few years, using a puppet as a stand-in for the real deal.
This is his first year speaking with an actual, living woodchuck — also called the groundhog — making a prediction.
“Dynamite! Let’s hear it for Grubby!” cheered Columbus resident Vic McGill.
“I’m originally from the West Coast. It’s lovely here, but a little chilly,” he said.
The ceremony was performed outdoors, then moved inside for a repeat as a benefit to people who are part of the Just Friends Adult Day Services.
This is Grubby’s second year serving as Bartholomew County’s furry forecaster. Last year, in a ceremony at the Hope Town Square, Grubby missed the mark, predicting an early spring that never quite materialized, said Kathy Hershey, groundhog caretaker and president of Utopia Wildlife Rehabilitators.
This year, Grubby’s prediction came shortly after officially immortal forebearer Punxsutawney Phil also predicted an early spring.
A German legend has it that if a furry rodent sees its shadow on Feb. 2, winter will last another six weeks. If not, spring comes early.
Utopia acquired Grubby about two years ago after the baby woodchuck was dragged out of its nest by a dog and left for dead on the steps of a house. Normally, the group releases wild animals after treatment, but Grubby was very young when she arrived at the center, Hershey said. She is now far too comfortable with humans and lacks many of the skills necessary to survive in the wild.
Now that her big day has passed, Grubby returns to her regular life of digging, eating and occasionally escaping her enclosure at Utopia, located just east of Newbern, Hershey said.
“It’s not a sophisticated life,” Hershey said.
Sometime in the next few months, the wildlife center will be building a newer, larger home.