In the groundhog’s shadow

Chubbers has some bad news for you.

According to the weather-predicting groundhog – who spends the rest of the year comfortably eating a healthy diet at the Oleson Park Zoo – we’re in for six more weeks of winter.

Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich made the announcement from the steps of the Fort Dodge Municipal Building early Saturday morning as he held Chubbers up for all to see.

“There is a shadow today so there will be six more weeks of winter,” Bemrich said.

Bemrich was a little disappointed in the verdict.

“It would be nice to not have him see his shadow,” he said.

Of the many duties performed as mayor, Bemrich rates the annual Groundhog Day experience highly.

“In official duties, it’s in the top five, ” he said.

Friends of Oleson Park Zoo Vice President Diane Happel is confident that Chubbers made the right call.

“He’s never been wrong,” she said.

She’s not happy with it either.

“I’m disappointed he saw his shadow,” she said.

The verdict from the gathered crowd of about 30 people seemed to mirror the sentiment. An audible moan went through the crowd, most clad in fairly heavy winter clothing.

One person who was happy was Emmersyn Peters, 4. Not only did she get to pet Chubbers and spend the morning with her mom, Adrianne Peters, she also got to celebrate her birthday – with a proper theme.

“I made her Groundhog Day cupcakes,” Adrianne Peters said.

The event is becoming a tradition. She said they’ve gone the last two years.

So what did Emmersyn Peters think of Chubbers.

“He looks like a big mouse,” she said.

Those who are still a bit sad about the additional winter can take comfort in the Groundhog Day prediction of Punxsutawney Phil in Punxsutawney, Pa.

According to The Associated Press, that particular groundhog emerged from his lair and did not see a shadow.

While it remains to be seen which one is right, Chubbers will be going back to the Oleson Park Zoo for a well-deserved rest and according to Diane Happel and “a midmorning snack of fruits and vegetables.”

He did have to train for the day, mostly to be able to stay awake, she said.

Of course, there is a bit of a hazard associated with handling creatures like Chubbers that Bemrich managed to take in stride. They occasionally leave a bit of a damp spot behind.

“He marked me as his territory,” Bemrich said.