Thursday 29 Sep 2016

Groundhog Day 2014
Jennifer Flaten

Today is Groundhog Day, a quaint tradition that involves yanking some poor unsuspecting rodent from his den and parading him around a freezing town square in order to find out the weather.

I have no idea how this started. It was a practical joke. Native Americans played it on the settlers. Imagine the Native Americans trying not to giggle as they explained to the silly Europeans that the deranged groundhog stumbling around outside his den was actually not rabid, but predicting the weather.

I suppose a groundhog is infinitely better than a bear. No one would want the job of bear-poker-awaker. Plus, the groundhog doesn’t eat the Groundhog Day party attendees.

Sure, there is a famous groundhog out east, but my town is not content to rely on that rodent’s predictions, what does he know about Wisconsin weather?

My town has its very own groundhog. Actually, the town doesn’t own the groundhog he’s a loaner. A private citizen owns the groundhog and generously donates him to the town for the day.

Confirming people suffering from cabin fever will do anything for entertainment, every year the town’s Chamber of Commerce organizes a yearly groundhog viewing party, which is always surprisingly well attended. The free coffee and donuts-you thought I was going to say beer didn’t you- probably has a lot to do with it.

The only reason I didn’t go to the groundhog prediction party is that it was at 7a on a Sunday. There is no way I am standing outside in the dead of winter at 7a unless the groundhog is handing out $100 bills. Eh, even for $100, I wouldn’t stand outside in below zero temperatures, but I would bundle the kids up and send them out.

What? They could have hot coffee and donuts. Besides every TV station is in town filming the groundhog, all those combined spotlights probably raise the ambient temperature to a balmy 25 degrees.

You know you live in a low crime area when the groundhog story is above the fold.

Don’t worry, I can still find out the groundhog’s prediction, without waiting for the evening news, by calling the groundhog prediction hotline or for the more technologically gifted you can visit the groundhog’s Facebook page-it has over 1,900 likes.

I find it rather disturbing that the groundhog posts an inordinate amount of selfies.

Aside from his forecasting duties, our groundhog enjoys a certain amount of celebrity about town and groundhog themed items are a cottage industry.

His image emblazoned on our fire trucks and he has a statue on town square. Apparently, the town drew the line at naming the local sports teams the groundhogs though, which is good because no one wants the word “hog” on their jersey.

The groundhog certainly is a cute little bugger. His charisma, and overwhelming amount of social media hype, might explain why I felt compelled to spend $3 dollars to buy a bag of “groundhog and his shadow cookies.” Keep in mind sheer laziness is the only thing that prevented me from driving across town to purchase groundhog shaped chocolates.

Although, I was a tad disappointed in the cookies, they looked more like the squirrel shaped cookies I buy for the dog from the pet bakery than groundhogs. This didn’t stop me from eating them though.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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