Fred la marmotte, the province’s famous furry oracle in Val-d’Espoir, Que., was found dead overnight Thursday, hours before he had been expected to predict whether it would be an early or late spring.
The organizer of Thursday’s Groundhog Day event in Val-d’Espoir announced the sombre news following some 40 minutes of festivities, including music and dancing.
“In life, the only thing that’s certain is that nothing is certain,” said a serious Roberto Blondin in front of a crowd of awaiting spectators.
“Well, this year it’s true. It’s true and it’s unfortunate. I announce to you the death of Fred.”
Blondin said he found the lifeless animal overnight when he tried to wake him. He said he had “no vital signs” and figures Fred passed away in late fall or early December, during hibernation, at the age of nine.
Changing the tone, Blondin said Fred loved children and would have wanted a child to fill in for him Thursday.
With that, a child attending the event, wearing a groundhog hat, was called up to the stage and handed a stuffed toy groundhog. He predicted six more weeks of winter.
There will be a new groundhog next year — Fred Junior — who will be ready to make his prediction in order to continue the tradition, assured Blondin.
Meanwhile, two of Canada’s most famous groundhog prognosticators have made conflicting calls about spring’s arrival.
Ontario’s Wiarton Willie has called for an early spring while Shubenacadie Sam, Nova Scotia’s most famous groundhog, apparently saw her shadow this morning as she emerged from a snow-covered enclosure at a wildlife park north of Halifax.
According to folklore, if a groundhog sees its shadow on Groundhog Day, winter will drag on. However, if it doesn’t spot its shadow, spring-like weather will soon arrive.
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