As the tradition goes, every year on Feb. 2, a groundhog comes out of his den to tell the world whether there will be six more weeks of winter or an early spring. This day of wonder is known as Groundhog Day, and if you were wondering how meteorologists predict the weather, this is not it.
When German immigrants first came to America they brought with them many traditions. One included the thought that a badger would appear from the ground to tell them if they had six more weeks of winter or not. However, they decided to forget that tradition as it wasn’t a current weather-forecasting method in America. So instead, they decided to believe in the groundhog as the appointed weatherman.
Yet Groundhog Day still has some disbelievers. Senior Darby Carroll said, “It’s a fake holiday. We base the continuation of a season off of an animal seeing its shadow.” And the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) would tell you that Groundhog Day is no holiday for animals, saying, “Groundhogs are naturally shy, sensitive prey animals who react poorly when handled in front of raucous crowds.”
This is evidenced by Jimmy the groundhog biting the mayor of Wisconsin’s ear at the 67th annual Sun Prairie Groundhog Day Celebration in 2015. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took groundhogs off the protected species list two years later, which legalized an open season on the creatures year-round. Coincidence or conspiracy?
It is also evidenced by the tragic groundhog drop of 2014, when Mayor DeBlasio dropped Charlotte, a stand in for Staten-Island Chuck. The groundhog died a week later due to internal injuries, which were originally covered up by the Staten Island Zoo. Although, from the outside, it might look like an attempted assassination for Chuck, the reason he had a stand in was not for malicious and pre-meditated reasons. Charlotte the groundhog was chosen that fateful day because she had the best attitude out of all the groundhogs in the exhibit. Her sunny disposition was inevitably what brought her to her tragic end. In the words of Natalie O’Neill, a writer for the New York Post, “Mayor De Blasio has groundhog blood on his hands.”
The most commonly known Groundhog is Punxsutawney Phil, who lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Phil has been invited to the Oprah Winfrey Show, in 2001 he cast his prediction live on the JumboTron in Times Square and in 1993 the movie, “Groundhog Day” was released. This raised the fame of Phil and resulted in more that 30,000 visitors in the following year. However, Georgia has their own resident groundhog who rivals Phil in fame and social status.
General Beauregard Lee is a Georgia resident who resides in the Dauset Trails Nature Center in Jackson. Before Dauset Trails, he resided in Yellow River Game Ranch until the ranch closed in 2017. To be awarded for his unwavering service to Georgia’s meteorology team, he was awarded the certificate of “DWP, Doctor of Weather Prognostication.” Shortly after, Georgia State University awarded Lee with his “Doctor of Southern Groundology.” Not bad for a quadruped.
Besides his prestigious awards in forecasting, Lee also has an impressive track record, with a 94% accuracy rate. And in contradiction to PETA’s previous statements that Groundhog Day “denies the opportunity [for groundhogs] to prepare for and enter yearly hibernation,” General Lee is working on his own time. Nobody tells Lee when it is time for him to make his prediction – he comes out when he feels it’s time. Additionally, Lee is pampered with a sponsorship from Waffle House, getting hash browns delivered right to his front door on the day of his big decision.
Next Feb. 2, make sure to get out and celebrate. Whether that means watching “Groundhog Day”, heading up to Chapman Library to take photos with the stuffed groundhog or going on a fieldtrip to visit your local groundhog Lee. Additionally, each groundhog hosts their own livestream, so if you don’t have time to throw together a groundhog-themed party, you could always watch Chuck, Phil or Lee on the go. No matter what, support our very own weather prognosticator next Groundhog Day.