HOPE — While science and folklore are in agreement about the remaining winter weather, no one seems to be happy about it.
On the Hope Town Square, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky Friday morning as Grubby, a 4-year-old woodchuck, made her third Groundhog Day appearance in four years.
With a shadow guaranteed by the bright sunlight, it was left to a member of Grubby’s Groupies, David Webster, to officially announce what most of the 70 spectators knew already.
“I believe the groundhog has spoken. And now, it can be told. Her shadow she sees. Six more weeks of the cold,” Webster proclaimed.
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A brief negative reaction seemed polite and obligatory, not much different than an audience encouraged to boo villains in old-time melodramas.
Webster’s prediction was announced about an hour after Punxsutawney Phil, America’s most-famous prognosticating rodent, had given the same prediction in western Pennsylvania.
For those who prefer science, computer models were released by government and commercial sources Jan. 31 that warned Hoosiers to brace themselves for a chilly and wet February.
Most of all, Friday morning’s 11-degree temperature, which felt even colder with a steady breeze, made it clear to spectators that Old Man Winter isn’t leaving anytime soon.
“This was the coldest Groundhog Day ceremony we have ever had,” said Michael Dean, one of Grubby’s Groupies better known as the CEO of Heritage of Hope, Inc. “But we still had a great turnout for such a miserable morning.”
While Grubby got to play the bad guy, the heroes who won the hearts of the audience were members of the Hauser High School band.
After playing a rendition of “Back Home Again in Indiana,” the student musicians kicked off the ceremony with “Pennsylvania Polka,” a song long associated with Groundhog Day at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania.
It was impossible for most of the students to play their instruments while wearing gloves or mittens, clarinet player Kylie Lock said.
“It was freezing cold, and we did not sound too great,” said Lock, a Hauser sophomore.
Nevertheless, band members managed to impress their elders by toughing it out, said Susan Thayer Fye, executive director of Main Street of Hope.
“If these band members had told me they couldn’t be here today, I would not have looked unfavorably upon them,” Fye said.
But alto saxophone player Emma Watkins, a Hauser senior, said playing for the entire town is always a pleasure for her — in any weather.
“And the groundhog was pretty cute,” she said.
Hope Town Manager J.T. Doane provided a brief history tracing the origin of Groundhog Day to Candlemas, a Christian holiday celebrated annually on Feb. 2.
Kathy Hershey, Grubby’s handler and co-founder of UTOPIA Wildlife Rehabilitators, was unable to attend Friday’s ceremony. But UTOPIA board vice president John Pugh filled in by giving spectators personal background on Grubby, as well as other interesting groundhog facts.
After the ceremony, most quickly found their way into the warmth of Willow Leaves on the north side of the square for a reception.
While warming up after attending their first Groundhog Day ceremony, a group of sixth-graders from Hope Elementary School provided their own insights.
“I don’t like having six more weeks of winter,” said Bailey Cheshire, who seemed to take Grubby’s prediction quite seriously. “I wish it were summer and we could go swimming.”
Her cousin, Kayla Cheshire, explained how the frigid weather forced her to jump around after her toes began to freeze.
But classmate Mikayla Miller said seeing a groundhog face-to-face for the first time made the entire bone-chilling experience worthwhile.