The wily, furry prognosticator known as Wiarton Willie is getting ready for his big day in the spotlight – shadow or no shadow – in a showdown over getting the late winter weather forecast right.
Partying with Willie
Groundhog Day falls this year on a Saturday, Feb. 2, so it’s even more reason to party at the three-day Wiarton Willie Festival.
On “Prediction Morning,” Willie is roused from his mid-winter hibernation to take part in what has become a popular annual ritual at precisely 8:07 a.m. at Bluewater Park.
It doesn’t get very scientific as folklore has it that if Willie sees his shadow at that time, he will return to his burrow and we endure another six weeks of winter weather.
If he doesn’t get spooked by any shadows, it means spring’s just around the corner.
Some 57 years in the making, the festival now attracts thousands from around the world – some of them dressed as groundhogs for the big day.
Shivering outdoors, they eagerly await Willie’s prediction with much pomp and ceremony by civic officials and others.
The festival starts on Friday with a Battle of the Bands, the naming of the Queen of the Festival, Wake up Willie Comedy evening and Monte Carlo Night.
Over the weekend, there are pancake breakfasts, an outdoor and indoor stage and large tent for entertainment as well as sports such as ice and road hockey, snow pitch, snow volleyball and curling.
There is also a winter carnival, family skating, a snow hill, snowmobile poker rally, craft show, ice carvings, a food expo and children’s events.
Entertainment includes Sloan on Saturday night and a Groundhog Ball.
“It is premature to expect that winter will go away and spring is on the way in spite of what the groundhogs say,” Dave Phillips, senior climatologist for Environment Canada, said after last year’s prediction. visitwiarton.ca; (519) 534-4741
Heating up the capital
They’ll be partying in Canada’s Capital Region and celebrating the season during Winterlude on weekends from Feb. 1 to 18.
There will be new musical fireworks to kick-off the 35th annual festival that has the “world’s longest skating rink,” the frozen Rideau Canal as its centre piece.
Visitors can “whizz down a giant snow slide in North America’s largest snow playground, hug the furry Ice Hog mascots and devour a banana chocolate BeaverTail pastry,” organizers say.
Bring your own skates or rent a pair, or even learn how to skate, watch a hockey tournament, take part in a winter triathlon and enjoy children’s entertainment.
There are also amazing ice sculptures and the Snowflake Kingdom children’s snow playground.
Local restaurants host culinary events with food and wine pairings, chef demonstrations and walkabout winter feasts. canadascapital.gc.ca; 1-800-465-1867
Lights, cameras, action
There is still time to catch the Winter Festival of Lights through Jan. 31 in Niagara Falls.
The illuminating fest has a “significant expansion” of displays including the popular Enchantment of Disney showpieces along a six-kilometre route.
The display at Queen Victoria Park overlooking the Falls includes more than 125 animated lighting displays and three-million tree and ground lights within the Niagara Parks Winter Wonderland.
The TD Rink at the Brink of the Horseshoe Falls offers outdoor skating and the thundering waters are illuminated nightly beginning at dusk. wfol.com; 1-800-563-2557
Not just a warm-weather pursuit, Ontario Tourism suggests an ice-fishing adventure.
“Don’t worry about being cold: rent an ice-fishing cabin with amenities and bunks and you’ll be toasty and warm,” it suggests.
Join the action on Ontario’s Family Fishing Weekend, Feb. 16 to 18, when licences aren’t required. ontariotravel.net/gofish