VLM's Chesapeake Chuck predicts early spring during Groundhog Day ceremony

Natalie Joseph
Contact Reporternjoseph@dailypress.com

During the Virginia Living Museum's annual Groundhog Day ceremony, groundhog Chesapeake Chuck took the stage to predict if Virginia will brave six more weeks of winter or welcome spring weather early this year.

As the small groundhog sat atop a table nibbling on a treat in front of more than 100 ceremony attendees who mostly cheered for an early spring during a crowd survey by curatorial director George Mathews, meteorologist Jeremy Wheeler announced Chuck's prediction.

To the excitement of the crowd and VLM executive director Rebecca Kleinhample, the groundhog did not see his shadow, meaning an early spring according to Groundhog Day tradition.

"Spring! I wanted spring. I was in the inner circle and I saw no shadow, so I think he's very accurate," Kleinhample said.

The annual ceremony was open to museum guests and school groups including Deer Park Elementary, which brought a large crowd to the VLM amphitheater.

Many students opted to wear homemade paper groundhog hats and made prediction signs to observe the occasion, which according to Kleinhample, serves as a way to educate the community about animals.

"It's such a great opportunity to connect people with the natural world. The injured and nonreleasable animals that are here are great ambassadors for our environment. The kids really play well off of this event and it's good education as well as fun," Kleinhample said.

Thursday marked Chesapeake Chuck's seventh time participating in one of many major Groundhog Day ceremonies across the country.

The most popular ceremony is held in Pennsylvania with groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, who predicted six more weeks of winter — the opposite of Chesapeake Chuck.

The different predictions did not worry Chesapeake Chuck's ceremony chaperon Mathews, who said the groundhog's predictions tend to be fairly accurate.

"He's been pretty close. He does his football predictions and he didn't get Oscars right when he tried that one year, but with the weather he's usually pretty close," Mathews said.

Chesapeake Chuck makes his next prediction Saturday, when he attempts to predict the winner of this year's Super Bowl. He is one-for-one, having chosen the Patriots last year.

Joseph can be reached by phone at 757-374-3134.

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