FRENCH CREEK — Upshur’s resident groundhog, French Creek Freddie, emerged to predict another early spring on a chilly Sunday morning. People of all ages, from near and far, traveled to the West Virginia Wildlife Center on Groundhog Day to experience the predicted weather forecast for north-central West Virginia from French Creek Freddie, who did not see his shadow this year. Some visitors were from New York, Chicago, and even sunny California. Biologist at the Wildlife Center, Tyler Evans, said they are always happy to see everyone come out, regardless of weather, and this year was no different – the turnout was huge.
The morning started at approximately 9:30 a.m. and began with songs by Enny Corner about an old friend of the Wildlife Center, Jack the Bear, Almost Heaven West Virginia, and French Creek Freddie himself. Robert L. Bland Middle School’s sixth grade student, Emma, read aloud from the charming book “Groundhog Gets a Say.” Secretary of the West Virginia Wildlife Center Judy Channell, and mascot French Creek Freddie portrayed by Kenny Hall, handed out prizes for oldest member in attendance, youngest member in attendance, furthest traveler in attendance, and Happy Birthday wishes were sung for those who had birthdays.
Freddie emerged at 10 a.m. after a 10 second countdown from the crowd, and soon after, Evans declared there was no shadow and spring would be near. Freddie has been predicting the weather since 1978 at the Wildlife Center, with 60 percent accuracy.
The festival continues until February 9, at the Bank’s District Volunteer Fire Department. On Friday, February 7 and Saturday, February 8, people are encouraged to come and meet the southern Upshur County Firefighters, enjoy food, baked goods, and participate in a cake walk sponsored by the Relay for Life. End the evening with live music, featuring The Joyful Servants, Steve Peters, The Forgiven Disciples, and The Shelter. The festival will conclude on February 9 at 2 p.m. with live music featuring Soldiers of the Cross, Praying for Change (PFC), and The Shelter. Come out and celebrate the 5th Annual Groundhog Festival with friends, food and good music. Come celebrate the early spring predication made by French Creek Freddie.
Groundhog Day isn’t where the excitement stops at the West Virginia Wildlife Center. The center is hosting many events this year, including the celebration of West Virginia Day, coming up next on June 20. “Come celebrate the birth of our state,” reads the West Virginia Wildlife Center website. The West Virginia Wildlife Center is located at 163 Wildlife Road, French Creek. They look forward to seeing visitors as warmer months approach.