On Thursday, February 2, better known as Groundhog Day, Balzac Billy, the 'Prairie Prognosticator' predicted an early arrival of spring for Albertans, at the Blue Grass Nursery, Sod and Garden Centre.
Steve Neubauer, a longtime member of the Balzac Billy Organizing Committee said that the beloved tradition is one that started over 45 years ago.
"The first official recording was in 1978 - [that] was the first radio broadcast from a field here in Balzac and the tradition is carried on," he said.
This year also marks The Balzac Business Community Association's 20th year anniversary and it was celebrated in tandem with Groundhog Day. Before Billy came out of his burrow, a traditional pancake breakfast was held, with live music, as well as Rodeo Royalty from the Airdrie Rodeo as well as Rodeo Canada attended.
But what of Billy's counterparts in other provinces? Well, Manitoba Merv predicted six more weeks of winter, while Balzac Billy's furry friend in Nova Scotia Shubenacadie Sam also saw her shadow, meaning that winter will drag on for six more weeks. Ontario's groundhog, Willie Wiarton, disagreed with his other furry counterparts. Willie predicted spring. There was some sad news out of Quebec, as Fred la Marmotte passed away on February 1, one day before Groundhog Day. The event did go forward without Fred, with a child who was chosen to stand in for Fred, predicting six more weeks of winter.
Billy's American colleague, Punxsutawney Phil down in Pennsylvania also predicted six more weeks of winter.
When asked what Neubauer thinks about the groundhogs sometimes disagreeing in their predictions, he laughed, saying it's all part of the fun of the tradition.
"It's just a great time. Billy, he's the only one that actually officially looks around and actually makes the prediction."
Originally, Groundhog Day was birthed from superstition by the Pennsylvania Dutch community who believed that if a groundhog came out from its burrow on this day and saw its shadow in clear weather, scurrying back into its den, that meant six more weeks of winter. If a groundhog didn't see its shadow, the daises would be blooming soon.
Last year, Billy predicted six more weeks of winter, while in 2019, he predicted an early spring.
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