SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. - Sun Prairie's 67th Groundhogs Day Celebration was anything but uneventful after Jimmy the Groundhog bit the mayor and disagreement ensued over his forecast.
It began as any other year, Jimmy rode with his caretakers, Jerry and Maria Hahn, in a limo escorted by Sun Prairie firefighters.
Just as Sun Prairie Mayor Jonathan Freund, leaned in to hear Jimmy's prediction, he was bitten in the ear by the groundhog. He then declared Jimmy didn't see his shadow and there would be an early spring.
One of Jimmy's caretakers, Jerry Hahn, told News 3 the mayor may have misinterpreted Jimmy, and there would be six more weeks of winter. Hahn added this was Mayor Freund's first time participating, which could have added to the confusion.
The tradition of Groundhog Day states that if it is cloudy when the groundhog emerges from its burrow, spring will come early. If it's sunny, the groundhog will see its shadow and retreat to its burrow, meaning winter will last six more weeks.
The News 3 Weather Center reported clear skies Monday morning.
Either way, kids and parents there were all smiles as they met Jimmy in person.
After some back and forth, the city of Sun Prairie released a statement on Jimmy's whispered prognostication to the mayor.
"While tradition holds that only the mayor can translate Jimmy's prediction and that a clear sky generally means Jimmy sees his shadow and that winter will go on for six more weeks, the mayor's translation this morning was clearly for an early spring. The break with tradition is unusual, but not unprecedented."
In the statement, Director of Economic Development Neil Stechschulte said, "We count on Jimmy to actually predict the weather … not just have an automated response based on current weather conditions like other groundhogs across the country. After a back and forth conversation with Jimmy this morning, the mayor clearly confirmed Jimmy's call for winter ending early."
The day was bittersweet and emotional for Jimmy's caretakers, Jerry and Maria Hahn. This was their last Groundhog Day caring for Jimmy after more than a decade.
Jerry Hahn said he has loved his time as caretaker and hopes the tradition continues.
Ti and Jeff Gauger will take over.
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