Punxsutawney Phil goes up against Power of 5 Meteorologist Mark Johnson

Facts and folklore of Groundhog Day traditions

AKRON, Ohio - It's that time of year again when a certain rodent wakes up to utilize his weather forecasting skills. There are a lot of facts and folklore surrounding the groundhog's annual weather prognostications. He has such a small brain for such a big responsibility.

The question is, will be six more weeks of winter or an early spring?

Dave Brumfield, a naturalist with Summit County Metroparks, is a bit of a groundhog expert. He said German tradition holds that the sun comes out on Feb. 2, which is the Christian holiday Candlemass. The old-world Europeans used several different animals, such as a hedgehog, some used a badger, some even a bear, on this day to see their shadow.

These animals were not readily available in 1887 for the immigrant Germans carried out their traditions in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. They formed a club that carried a groundhog up to Gobblers Knob and proclaimed Phil as the only official weather prognosticator. They claim he talks.

"There's a special language between these individuals in the club and the groundhog," said Brumfield.

Most groundhogs only live 5 to 7 years, but Phil is close to 125 years old. It could be because he lives in the Punxsutawney library 364 days each year on display, or maybe it's the magic elixir they give him each summer.

"They've got this special little mix of a drink that they give him every year and it adds seven years to his life. They claim that he never dies and so, he's the same one," said Brumfield.

With all those years of wisdom you would think Phil would be more accurate as Mark Johnson

"Groundhogs are kind of cute and cuddly. They got big buck teeth, but as far as forecasting the weather, uhh-uhh," said Johnson.

"If you lived in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, it would be 100 percent of the time he's always right, Phil does not make mistakes," said Brumfield.

"The groundhog gets a day, they wake him up, they give him a big party and he's wrong 33 percent of the time, then they throw him back in and he goes to bed," said Johnson. He has his prediction: "It will be an early spring."

Just like the old-world Europeans, Americans loves their holiday traditions.

Spring is just around the corner. The whole family can join Brumfield to learn more about nature's weather forecasters. Who knows, maybe Punxsutawney Phil's cousin will make a guest appearance. The event includes a hike outdoors, weather permitting. The talk is scheduled for Feb. 4, at 1 p. m. in the Goodyear Heights Metro Park's pavilion, 2077 Newton St., Akron.

For more information on the program go to the Summit MetroPark's website: http://on.wews.com/wsqtXn

For more information on Punxsutawney Phil: http://www.groundhog.org/

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