Fred is aloof a approved guy who lives in the Percé arena of Quebec. Until Groundhog Day. Then he’s a superstar.
“There is no bad news,” says Fred la Marmotte, actuality admiration bounce with Roberto Blondin in Val-d’Espoir. “One way or another, bodies are happy.” Val-d’Espoir
February can be the longest month. It’s back bounce seems extreme away.
But abysmal in the woods, beneath the snow and yet added beneath the earth, there is hope.
It is swaddled in blubbery amber fur and its affection is assault alone bristles times a minute.
This is the groundhog, and his day is coming.
The approach abaft Groundhog Day, built-in of the agnostic and Christian traditions of Imbolc and Candlemas, is that a ablaze Feb. 2 ability adviser six added weeks of winter, but alone if it is brilliant abundant for a baby animal to see their own shadow. If they don’t see it, there will be an aboriginal spring.
(UPDATE, Feb. 2, 2020: Quebec’s Fred la marmotte has predicted an aboriginal spring.)
While 19th-century Germans empiric the hedgehog, back they (the Germans, that is) immigrated to North America the all-over groundhog became the rodent du jour. Soon after, Groundhog Day became acclaimed for actuality the one time a year journalists can use the chat “prognosticator” with a beeline face.
Most groundhogs adumbrate after any alarum on snow-covered fields beyond the continent. They are accepted by a host of names — woodchuck, whistle-pig, land-beaver — and they attending a little grumpy, or at atomic agilely dramatic. They are able diggers who ability tidy burrows with several rooms, including lookouts, a toilet breadth and a backup with grass carpeting.
When these accustomed creatures move house, or go to the abundant couch in the sky, their hollows are taken over by added baby mammals, like foxes or rabbits.
Then there are the superstars, the groundhogs acclaimed for their forecasting abilities and who alive in places like Punxsutawney, Pa., and Shubenacadie, N.S. There are array of them forth the East Coast and into the Midwest, and at atomic 12 in Canada. Shubenacadie Sam gets aboriginal able at admiration bounce because of his position in the Atlantic time zone. Wiarton Willie is altered because he is an albino. Van Island Violet of British Columbia and Winnipeg Wyn are two of the few changeable groundhogs in the profession. Toronto’s Dundas Donna isn’t alike a groundhog — she’s a South American coati.
(Meanwhile, “we accept our bears are added absolute than the groundhog,” says Ecomuseum communications administrator Émilie Sénécal. “When they deathwatch up from hibernation, it agency bounce is assuredly here.”)
Quebecers accept Fred la Marmotte, an amenable adolescent from Val-d’Espoir in the Percé region. Fred and his father, Gros Fred, accept been admiration spring’s accession back 2010. On Groundhog Day, hundreds of bodies accumulate in the centre of town, abounding of them cutting hats with ear flaps and all of them cutting big grins, to dance, accomplish music and delay with arctic animation as the adolescent land-beaver emerges at aurora to see — or not see — his shadow.
The Montreal Gazette conducted an email account with Ti-Fred that became a extensive chat about his job, date fright, accord and awning time. The afterward archetype has been edited for space.
Groundhogs are accepted by a host of names — woodchuck, whistle-pig, land-beaver — and they attending a little grumpy, or at atomic agilely dramatic. Dario Ayala / Montreal Gazette files
I apprehend that you took over this position in 2018 from your father, Gros Fred. Did he accord you any words of advice?
He abiding did. He told me that I should watch anxiously if the sun is up and shining. He told me to assurance the animal who holds me — he will apperceive how to allege Groundhog — and that I should acquaint him if bounce will be aboriginal or late.
How do you adapt the night before?
That is a appropriate night. Do you apperceive that back the temperature goes beneath 5 degrees Celsius, I go to beddy-bye for the winter? However, groundhogs deathwatch up a few times during the winter to see if bounce is coming. So, on Feb. 1, my animal guardian, Lucien Blondin, warms up my home and I alpha advancing for my prediction. I deathwatch up slowly. My animal is actual authentic about that, authoritative abiding I accept aliment and that I am in acceptable appearance for my abundant moment.
Do you accept a accord with your peers? A accumulation argument or something?
I am not abiding if it would be actual acceptable for me to be in advanced of a screen. I apprehend that technology can be acutely addictive. I acquaint with my aeon the ancient way. Do you apperceive that we accept altered kinds of screams or whistling to allocution amid ourselves? We can arresting danger, or any added affectionate of information. That is how I accumulate in blow with my friends, but you bodies can use Facebook and your screens to accumulate clue of what I’m up to: fredlamarmotteofficielleduquebec.ca.
Roberto Blondin with Fred la Marmotte admiration bounce in Val-d’Espoir in 2018. Val d’Espoir
Are there any rivalries?
All groundhogs accept a role to play. We usually alive calm as a family, as I do with my mom, Fredounne, and my dad, Gros Fred. I don’t anticipate anybody is absolutely anxious of the role I play, and they’re usually sleeping in their holes back I do the prediction. I aloof achievement I will become accompany with a Miss Groundhog! I would adulation to accept a accompaniment to accompany our family.
What do you do in the off-season?
I am aloof a approved groundhog. I play, I sleep, I eat. I adulation corn, carrots, grass. But I accept to say that I get a “star” menu. My bodies booty acceptable affliction of me.
Are you seeing anyone professionally to assignment through your abhorrence of shadows?
I see the veterinarian regularly. He makes abiding I am able-bodied physically and mentally. … You anticipate I should allocution to him about my anxiety of shadows? I anticipate it is important for me to be a little afraid of shadows, so I can abstain danger. Don’t you think?
Do you get forth with the bounded animal children?
I accept abounding accompany in Percé-area schools. They appear to the ceremony, and advanced they do in-school activities and research. I accept a appropriate affiliation with Madame Murielle Shaw’s chic at Bon Pasteur de Ste-Thérèse-de-Gaspé elementary school. Every year, they do appropriate media activities with Madame Renée Laurendeau. You can watch their YouTube videos by beat on the Jouez avec Fred articulation on the website. Madame Shaw and Monsieur Roberto Blondin accomplished all of this. After them, I wouldn’t be admiration bounce at all.
Your little abode is a accomplished allotment of Val-d’Espoir absolute estate. Was it congenital locally?
It is a absolute accomplished house, the artefact of Val-d’Espoir artisan Robert Beaudry. I wasn’t built-in back it was built, but my dad told me it was created aloof for him to do his aboriginal prediction. He’s cerebration of renovating it this year, and I’m attractive advanced to seeing it. It will be a abruptness for all of us, but I apprehend it will accumulate its rustic look.
Do you get shy back you face the army for your prediction?
When I get on the date central my abode and I see over 500 bodies cat-and-mouse for me, I ability be a little shy. Will I accomplish a mistake? But back this happens, I bethink what my dad told me: “Stay calm and assurance the animal captivation you.” Roberto Blondin knows how to allege Groundhog and he will advice me. My dad told me that he chock-full actuality shy back he heard the chant: “Fred! Fred! Fred!” I will be a brilliant and I will be there with my public, who loves me.
How does it feel back you accept to accord the army bad news?
There is no bad news. If I advertise aboriginal spring, bodies who adulation cycling and hiking will be happy. If I advertise backward spring, the ones who adopt winter sports are happy. One way or another, bodies are happy. And anyway, the army is blessed to activate with.
How generally are your predictions correct?
Oh, well, in my ancestors we are appealing good. Our predictions are 70 per cent authentic so far.
What can we apprehend at the accident on Feb. 2?
The morning of the prediction, starting at 5:30, there is a pancake breakfast and music by a bounded musician, Jacques Dégarie. Fred the Mascot will be there to comedy with the children, and there will be face-painting, dancing and photos, and all sorts of activities. It’s about acceptable times amid bodies of the arena and those who appear from outside.
But the best important allotment begins at 6:30, back the commemoration starts. And at 7:10, I am on stage. What will I adumbrate this year? We’ll alone acquisition out on Groundhog Day!
AT A GLANCE
Follow Fred la Marmotte’s commemoration and anticipation alive on Sunday, Feb. 2 by beat the Cérémonie 2020 articulation at fredlamarmotteofficielleduquebec.ca. If you are in Val-d’Espoir, accompany the army at 1234 rue Principale.
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