Arts & Culture

Five Southern Groundhog Day Celebrations

Pennsylvanians have Punxsutawney Phil, but, no disrespect intended, on February 2, we’ll be looking to the South’s furry forecasters to predict spring’s arrival

Photo: Tim Bower

Chattanooga Chuck

The Tennessee Aquarium’s Chief Seasonal Forecaster, Chuck, reacts to his shadow as usual. But he also gets a gut check from his buddies—frogs, sea urchins, sharks—with alleged weather-predicting abilities.

Chuck might be the social media savviest creature-predictor this time of year, telling his Twitter followers he’s ready to “do my #GroundHogDay thing.” He’s also got a Facebook Live planned for the moment he makes his prediction at the aquarium Friday morning. There’s good reason to watch: The Chattanooga team’s accuracy rate is an impressive 87.5 percent.

French Creek Freddie

Since 1978, crowds of hundreds show up each winter at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center in French Creek to sip hot chocolate, snack on cookies, and see what the resident groundhog, Freddie, forecasts. Over the last decade, he’s been spot-on 70 percent of the time.

Pierre C. Shadeaux

Rather than predicting a longer or shorter winter, the “Cajun Groundhog” prognosticates either a longer spring or an earlier summer. Shadeaux, who is in fact a nutria (aka “swamp rat”), has been busy getting beautiful at his home at Zooziana in Broussard, Louisiana, where he recently got a special bath from his glam squad before a full slate of T.V. interviews leading up to his prediction duties Friday.

Photo: Courtesy of Zooziana

Pierre C. Shadeaux of Broussard, Louisiana.

Although many winter-weary Southerners this year are crossing their fingers groundhogs won’t see their shadows, which means an early spring, Shadeaux has a different charge. “We do want Pierre to see his shadow, because we don’t want it to be 100 degrees by the end of February,” says Christina Pierce, publisher of The New Iberia Times. Fair enough.

As for Shadeaux’s prediction record, nobody is quite sure. But then again, South Louisianans hardly need a rodent to tell them summer will come in fast and hot.

Sir Walter Wally

The mayor of Raleigh presides over the shadow ceremony at the Museum of Natural Sciences. Since 1998, Wally the groundhog has predicted correctly just 60 percent of the time, but the last two years, he’s been on a hot streak.

General Beauregard Lee

This Georgia whistle pig emerges from a new home this year, in Jackson, after several years an hour north in Lilburn. Lee is credentialed, even—Georgia State University named him a Doctor of Southern Groundology. His success rate hovers just above 50 percent, with at least one serious whiff—in 2014, he predicted an early spring in the days between two major Southern ice storms.