There used to be a commercial about the second largest car rental company that said "We're number two, but we try harder." That slogan could be applied to our very own Dunkirk Dave.
Dunkirk Dave, who is second only to Punxsutawney Phil in the years of making predictions, did not see his shadow on Thursday morning. That is in contrast to Phil who did see his shadow. If Dave is correct, we should see mild weather continuing.
While not as long established, Robert Will contends that his animal is more accurate. He sets the accuracy at over 90 percent.
The celebration in Dunkirk seems to focus more on the animal. Robert Will is a wild life rehabilitator who specializes in mammals. He and William Verge, who helps with the woodchucks, have great affection for the animals. As Will said, "We don't just pick him up and pretend to listen to him. We let the animal walk around."
Will said to a small but appreciative group, "It's a great day for groundhog day. Mostly, it's a lot colder than this."
At first Dave was reluctant to come out of the antique dollhouse set up. Will observed, "The whole winter season's mixed up you know."
OBSERVER Photo by Diane Chodan
Bill Verge and Robert Will look at Dunkirk Dave chowing down on fruit, veggies, and banana bread.
Once Dave was coaxed out, he was perfectly happy to stay out and munch veggies, fruit, and banana bread. Will said, "It looks like he's not afraid of anything. Certainly there isn't much chance of sun here."
Some spectators attending the pronostication were Marty Rosiak, John Daigle, Bryan Thompson, Mitch Stessing and Brian Trauget - roommates at Niagara University. None of them was from the local area. Originally they had wanted to go to Punxsutawney but after finding it was a six hour trip, they decided to come to Dunkirk. Rosiak commented, "I know more about groundhogs than I do about my class later on today."
Two in the group wore suits. One had a false beard and the other a bomber hat. The young men cheered boisterously when the announcement was made that Dave did not see his shadow.
James Zappie brought his 3 year-old daughter, Lily, to see the groundhog. He couldn't explain just why but she is very interested in groundhog day. "We've had to have groundhog parties," he said.
When asked why she was here so early in the morning, Lily answered matter-of-factly, "I want to see the groundhog."
Machiah Wojcinski brought his two children Zeah and Iszak to see the animal. His sister, Katrina (Wojcinski) Richerson brought her two children, Kaelin and Klara. They came from the Stockton area to see the groundhog.
After the prediction, Verges brought out some of the other animals so that under controlled conditions, those who wanted could stroke the animals. Both he and Will answered questions about the animals' behavior and explained that the animals exhibit differing personalities.
Will brought out groundhog finger puppets for the children. Coffee and donuts were available.
Dunkirk Dave is becoming more widely known. This Jan. 13, a reporter from the LA Times flew out to meet Will and his groundhogs (during a snowstorm.)
Will said, "Dave was on the cover of the LA times and I've had about 250 phone calls about the article. ... There's been a quite a bit of interest from that one thing. Two years ago, the groundhog was written about by the Wall Street Journal."
The photo used in the LA Times was taken by OBSERVER staff writer Nicole Gugino.
We might be number two, but we try harder. Hey, maybe we are better!
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