UNADILLA – It may be hard to believe as southeast Nebraska thaws out from the bitter cold left behind by the polar vortex earlier this week, but spring is coming early. That’s according to the most famous prognosticating groundhog in the “Groundhog Capitol” of Nebraska: Unadilla – a town of 294 people in Otoe County.
Unadilla Bill, a taxidermy groundhog who has been around since the 1980’s, emerged from his burrow at 7:36 a.m. Saturday and didn’t see his shadow.
The festivities have their origin in a German legend that says if a furry rodent casts a shadow on Feb. 2, winter continues. If not, spring comes early.
In Punxsutawney, Pa., Punxsutawney Phil also didn’t see his shadow, predicting an early spring. Phil’s prediction is decided ahead of time by the group on Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill just outside Punxsutawney. That’s about 65 miles (105 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio stopped attending Staten Island’s Groundhog Day ceremony in 2015, a year after he accidentally dropped the furry critter that died a week later.
And he wasn’t the only New York City mayor who struggled with the holiday. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg was bitten at a Groundhog Day ceremony in 2009.
The Unadilla Groundhogs Day celebration continues throughout the day Saturday with a craft fair, food, the parade at 2 p.m., and the crowning of the kind and queen.
Reigning Groundhog Day Queen Rachel Zahn says the celebration raises funds for the Unadilla Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad.
Bill did NOT see his shadow! Early spring!
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This report contains information from the Associated Press.