Canada's groundhogs predict an early spring
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, February 2, 2017 4:09AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 2, 2017 3:10PM EST
Canada's celebrity groundhogs have "predicted" an early spring after officials declared the pudgy prognosticators did not see their shadows.
Ontario's Wiarton Willie and Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam were both greeted by cheers as their forecasts were issued by their handlers on Thursday morning.
Folklore has it that if the groundhog sees its shadow when it emerges from its burrow on Groundhog Day, there will be six more weeks of winter. If the groundhog doesn't see its shadow, then tradition says spring is on the way.
Shubenacadie Sam was the first to issue a forecast.
The portly rodent waddled out of a small barn just after 8 a.m. local time and officials declared he did not see his shadow.
Sam then scurried into a snowy yard, darted around the enclosure and hid behind a promotional banner for the annual event in what was his 29th prediction.
"Soon we shall see the many colours of green," a town crier bellowed to the cheers of onlookers at the Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park. "The good news that Sam did bring will mean we get an early spring!"
Last year, Sam also predicted the early arrival of spring, though the wintry weather dragged on for months after.
In Wiarton, Ont. -- where a festival leading up to Thursday's "official prediction" by the town's albino groundhog began on Jan. 27 -- a crowd gathered in front of an outdoor stage to hear Willie's prognosis.
The town's mayor put her ear to one side of a small enclosure on stage where the famous rodent was shuffling around before declaring "it's an early spring!"
"Wiarton Willie sees no shadow in sight. He says early spring, will his prediction be right?" a town crier then called out.
South of the border, however, an American groundhog issued a different forecast.
The handlers of Pennsylvania's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, said the furry rodent "predicted" six more weeks of winter after seeing his shadow.
Members of Phil's top hat-wearing inner circle revealed their "forecast" at sunrise Thursday.
In reality, Phil's prediction is decided ahead of time by the group on Gobbler's Knob, a tiny hill just outside Punxsutawney, Pa.