Nebraska has its own answer to Groundhog Day.
One summer day when I was home from college, and when my parents still lived on the farm where we live now, I peered out the kitchen window and made an announcement. “Beavers are coming up to the farm from the creek,” I said. It was quite a revelation. We live at least a half mile from West Bow Creek, and there was no reason for any well-minded beaver to search that far away from home for wood.
The “beaver” I had seen for the first time on our farmstead, was actually a beaver without the flat tale. It was a woodchuck, i.e. groundhog. I have to say that for many months I was astounded to come face to face with those groundhogs, as they cleaned up stray walnuts in our orchard and burrowed beneath the chicken coop.
Over the years, entire colonies have inhabited our farm, then moved on. With a three-acre grove of trees immediately west of our farmstead, they have plenty of shelter. They can do their fair share of damage to buildings, but I have to say that they have a kind, gentle look.
So Groundhog Day has a little more significance these days, when woodchucks are relatively common in our region, compared to when I was very young and had never seen one. But I always wondered why Punxsutawney, PA should have all the fun. The fine Pennsylvania folks certainly don’t have the corner on groundhog populations or predicting winter for the Great Plains.
Since 1988, when Nebraska’s Lt. Governor, William (Bill) Nichols, signed a proclamation ordered by then-Governor Kay Orr, designating the Otoe county village, Unadilla, as the Groundhog Capital of Nebraska, our state has claimed at least a portion of the celebration that first week in February.
The residents of Unadilla rewarded the Lt. Governor by naming their soon-to-be-famous stuffed groundhog, Unadilla Bill. This year, the town located 60 miles southeast of Omaha will celebrate on Saturday, Feb. 5 with a silent auction, parade, king and queen coronation, quilt raffle, craft fair, soup and jerky judging and a speaker.
Unadilla always celebrates Groundhog Day on the first Saturday of February and they want to remind everyone that the parade begins at 1 p.m. – no matter if it is snowing and blowing and bitterly cold. We Nebraskans are tough folks, you know, and so are our groundhogs. They don’t want to let a little weather get in the way of some fun in Unadilla in February.
If you’d like to learn more about Nebraska’s answer to Groundhog Day, visit the Events page at Unadilla, Nebraska
To learn more about the interesting traditions and legacy of Groundhog Day, or if you are interested in that other famous groundhog in Pennsylvania, you can check out the official website of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club
I hate to tell Bill and Phil, but around here we’re guessing it will be business as usual and that we’ll have at least six more weeks of winter.