Groundhog, woodchuck, land beaver, whistle pig…these are all terms for the critter that is scientifically known as Marmota monax or in some cases the Eastern Marmot. Each year we anticipate the age old ritual of Groundhog Day when it is believed that if a Groundhog leaves his den and sees his shadow we can expect six more weeks of winter. Personally I have noted that on years he did not see his shadow we only had a month and a half of winter.
The tradition of Groundhog Day goes back to the old Europe custom except they used hedgehogs which also hibernated in winter and were more plentiful. When the Germans came to Pennsylvania they brought the tradition with them but not finding any hedgehogs they opted first for the badger (not a great choice due to its aggressive behavior when bothered) finally settling on the more docile groundhog. Thus we have Punxsutawney Phil and Lake Erie Eddie getting the press instead of Badger Bob or whatnot. I am also sure that the top hat wearing fellows at Gobbler’s Knob are thankful not to have to wrestle with an angry badger they just woke up.
Thus on Groundhog Day Eve (so as not to steal any of Punxsutawney Phil’s thunder) the Cleveland Museum of Natural History went “everything groundhog” with Groundhog Fun Day. There were numerous displays scattered through the museum where youngsters could pet a groundhog (a stuffed one at least) along with other fur pelts, crawl through a tunnel (den) to see their shadow, learn about other critters that hibernate, dig like a groundhog, have their photo taken with a giant groundhog, buy a raffle ticket for a groundhog commissioned painting, have your face painted in groundhog motif as well as some non-groundhog activities such as looking at fossils, petrified wood and shark jaws among other things. There was also a groundhog themed passport book that the children could have stamped at each station in order to win a prize.
For two shows, audience members got to meet Mimi the Skunk, Sir Lancelot the Porcupine and the star of the show Lake Erie Eddie the Groundhog while learning fascinating facts about all three animals. For the record, although the unveiling of Lake Erie Eddie was indoors he would have missed seeing his shadow if in the wild due to the heavy overcast yesterday and today thus an early spring for us but not so in Pennsylvania.
Along with investigating the various tables with groundhog facts, guests also had free run of the museum to check out all the fascinating displays. Judging by the happy smiles on adults and children it looked as if Groundhog Fun Day was a great success in fun and learning and I’m not just whistling.