Freddie: ‘Brrrrrr!’

© 2018-The Record Delta

FRENCH CREEK — Every year, the West Virginia Wildlife Center marks Groundhog Day — Feb. 2 — by calling on its prognosticating woodchuck to predict the weather for the next six weeks.

This year, for French Creek Freddie’s 41st anniversary of foretelling whether residents must weather six more weeks of winter or will be able to enjoy an early spring, the city of Buckhannon is marking Freddie’s fame by honoring him with the installation of a statue of the famed groundhog downtown.

Buckhannon mayor David McCauley made the announcement at the Wildlife Center’s annual Groundhog Day event Friday, where French Creek Freddie emerged from his burrow at exactly 10 a.m. to tell attendees that more white stuff was on the way. According to Pennsylvania Dutch lore, if a groundhog sees its shadow when it emerges from its den Feb. 2, locals are in store for six more weeks of snow, ice and winter; however, if the groundhog doesn’t see his or her shadow due to a cloudy sky, an early spring is supposedly on the horizon.

McCauley read aloud a letter he had written to Freddie prior to his emergence.

“I have always been a fan, so please don’t take any umbrage over that over-hyped possum incident that I was involved in last year,” the mayor joked, referencing a 2017 incident in which a possum entered his kitchen and he called on two Buckhannon police officers to remove the varmint.

“You are vastly superior to Punxsutawney Phil,” McCauley continued. “You’re the real deal and far more handsome than that Phil the Fraud character. That’s why I’m commissioning a larger-than-life statue to be installed in honor of you in our Jawbone Park.”

McCauley joked that if Freddie said spring was coming soon, the statue would be made even bigger than planned.

The wildlife center’s wildlife biologist, Tyler Evans, helped Freddie make the prediction, noting that the sun came out right before the groundhog made his appearance.

“The sun came out right as the door was opening, so we’re in for another six weeks of winter,” Evans said. According to Evans, 2018 is the third consecutive year Freddie has called for six more weeks of winter.

“One thing about Freddie is, he’s been pretty accurate,” Evans said. “He’s been seeing his shadow a little bit here and there, but before those two years, he went six years in a row where he didn’t see his shadow at all, and more often than not, that came true and last year, he actually saw his shadow, but lo and behold, he didn’t end up being right so I guess that counts all the same.”

Freddie’s prognostication fell in line with the prediction of the original, furry meteorologist, Punxsutawney Phil, who also saw his shadow Friday in central Pennsylvania.

The event was hosted by wildlife center secretary Judy Channell, and Mrs. West Virginia International 2018, Tauletha Chaffin, made an appearance to advocate for women’s heart health through her platform, Go Red for Women.

“Heart health is super important,” Chaffin said. “It’s more important for this time of year. You can’t really get out and exercise, but eating healthy, being active, all of that is super important for your heart health.”

Chaffin noted the warning signs for heart trouble are different in women than in men, and said 80 percent of heart problems and stroke among women can be avoided by making healthy lifestyle choices. (To learn more, visit www.goredforwomen.org.)

In addition, the local band, Enny Corner, played a song it had written especially for Freddie, that asks, “Are you ready for French Creek Freddie?”

Friday’s crowd, which had braved icy country roads and below-zero temperatures to see Freddie, indicated that while they were ready for Freddie, they weren’t quite ready for more winter.

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