FRENCH CREEK, W.Va. — He’s considered West Virginia’s unofficial weather prognosticating rodent and for one weekend a year the focus is on a tiny burrow inside an enclosure at the West Virginia Wildlife Center in Upshur County. There, the lair of French Creek Freddie, is where lore has it the groundhog will share the news of whether an early spring is in the forecast or we will endure six more weeks of winter.
“We’ve been waiting for quite a few years for Groundhog Day to fall on a Saturday,” said Tyler Evans, Manger of the Wildlife Center.
The Wildlife Center, run by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, hosts a large celebration of the groundhog, its biology, and the traditions of Groundhog Day. The center will open at 9:00 a.m. with Freddie emerging and making his prediction at 10 a.m. Evans expects there will a larger than normal crowd on hand for the festivities since it’s on a weekend, but it’s not just the Wildlife Center which has seized upon Freddie’s popularity.
“We’ve gotten to a point where it’s turned into a full on Groundhog Festival throughout the Rock Cave and southern Upshur Community,” he explained. “There’s a lot of quilt shows, pancake feeds, craft shows–you name it there’s a lot going on and it’s got a lot to do with French Creek Freddie.”
Groundhogs are true hibernators—they go to den and stay there until the spring. At the wildlife center, even the bears remain semi-active during the winter months. As for what Freddie will do during the Saturday reveal, Evans said he has no idea.
“He’ll come out for long enough to see everybody and run around for a few minutes,” Evans explained. “The way most of the events have gone in recent years the weather is such, he’s pretty content to tuck himself back in and be put away for a while.”
As for his accuracy on predicting an early Spring, Evans wouldn’t hazard a guess.
“He’s about as accurate as every other ground hog,” he said. “Unfortunately in the last few years he’s been a little more on the brutally honest side of things.”