FRENCH CREEK, W.Va. – It has become an annual tradition on Groundhog Day for people to gather at the West Virginia Wild Life Center to see French Creek Freddie.
Freddie is a groundhog that has been predicting whether or not to expect a long or short winter since 1978 and on Sunday around 400 people gathered to watch him work. If Freddie sees his shadow when he’s let out of his home, then that means six more weeks of winter; if not, then it means an early spring.
“Fortunately, today he didn’t see his shadow, for people that are in favor of an early spring,” Tyler Evans, a wildlife biologist at the center said. “I think there’s a lot of people that are fond of that prediction. Over the last few years, he’s had a bit of a tradition of seeing his shadow at the last possible second right at 10 o’clock. We’re very happy, at least I am that this year we’re going to be looking at warmer weather.”
Freddie has been right over 60 percent of the time but that does little to convince Angie Bolliger who attended with her daughter and fiance. Bolliger said she hoped he was right but that she was doubtful because in her opinion cold weather always sticks around.
Regardless, she said she hadn’t attended in roughly six years and wanted to take the chance to have fun especially because Groundhog Day fell on a Sunday, her day off, and the weather was mild.
“It was a great crowd,” Bolliger said. “It was fun to sing the songs and see French Creek Freddie and the mascot and get our pictures taken with him. Free hot cocoa and cookies was just a bonus.”
Hot cocoa and cookies were among things for attendees to enjoy after the event was over. There was even a wood chucking contest because a woodchuck is another name for a groundhog.
The well-attended event drew in people not just from West Virginia but from around the country. Several people were from Maryland and one man in the crowd said he had driven from Chicago just for a chance to see Freddie’s prediction.
“It’s not just a local event any more, we really cover a broad spectrum,” Evans said. “We have people here from California, we have people young and old here. We’re just happy that it’s something that people that come from all walks of life are able to come out and enjoy. I think it’s just a special event for central West Virginia and even beyond that.”