The Groundhog Day ceremony at Centennial Park last Friday was a resounding success, as Fenwick Flossie, the Fenwick Lions’ Club resident groundhog, predicted an early spring for 2020.
“Winter’s over and spring is just around the corner,” said Mayor Marvin Junkin, admiring the giant marmot.
Students from St. Ann Catholic School, and Fonthill Montessori Preschool, arrived just before 10 AM to attend an event now in its 27th year. On average, some 250 students attend the annual gathering, with parents, teachers and other guests boosting the numbers to almost 400. (Students from Wellington Heights Public School were not in attendance this year as a consequence of the current labor dispute between teachers and the Ontario government.)
The mood among the Lions was one of jovial calm as members traded jokes and set up tables stocked with colouring books, hot chocolate, and snacks.
“Where’s Flossie?” a Lions member asked as he checked his watch. It seemed that the groundhog was taking her time preparing offstage for her much-anticipated appearance.
“The old gal is 82 years old,” answered Rob Henson, past-president and event organizer. His tone (and mischievous smile) suggested that after 25 years of annual appearances, Flossie had more than earned her diva attitude.
Henson said that he was especially excited this year, since Flossie’s 2019 appearance had been cancelled due to the weather. In his 17 years of organizing the event, there have been only two cancellations.
The first to arrive on the premises was the Morgan family. Ross and Jessica Morgan described the excitement of their two sons as something akin to Christmas Day, with Henri and Emmett waking up as early as 5 AM to get ready for Flossie’s debut five hours later.
Maureen Coyne, a teacher at St. Ann, polled her students while waiting for the giant rodent to appear. A show of hands revealed that 15 kids predicted early spring, while two predicted six more weeks of winter.
As the magic hour approached, more students lined up in front of the den, chanting Flossie’s name with enough gusto to wake even the sleepiest groundhog.
“It’s like their first rock concert,” said Lion Trevor Philbrick.
A hush fell over the crowd as the branches covering Flossie’s den began to quiver. The giant groundhog slowly emerged, peering into the cloudy sky as if making absolutely sure that there was no sun. After a suspenseful few seconds, Flossie raised her paws and stepped forward to acknowledge the crowd. Her confident walk was confirmation that without a shadow to be afraid of, spring would soon be here.
After some warm hugs and photo-ops with Flossie, the children lined up to enjoy hot chocolate and cookies.
One of the attendees remarked before leaving, “It’s good to introduce kids to community events like these while they are young. Perhaps as they grow up, they will continue to attend.”
As the crowd began to disperse, Flossie quietly retreated back to her den, no doubt to hibernate and enjoy some well-deserved beauty sleep until her next prediction, in 2021.