Chuckles predicts an early spring

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Feb. 3, 2011
Held by Lutz Children’s Museum Animal Curator Sarah Wilby, Connecticut Chuckles VII whispers her encouraging Groundhog Day weather prediction to Mayor Louis Spadaccini last week. Photos by Martha Marteney.
Held by Lutz Children’s Museum Animal Curator Sarah Wilby, Connecticut Chuckles VII whispers her encouraging Groundhog Day weather prediction to Mayor Louis Spadaccini last week. Photos by Martha Marteney.

MANCHESTER - Although the crowds were deterred by the ice storm, Connecticut Chuckles VII made her annual Groundhog Day prediction about the weather. Chuckles, also known as “Molly,” is the official state groundhog. She lives at the Lutz Children’s Museum on South Main Street in Manchester, and has predicted the weather for the past two years. She is the seventh in the line of weather-predicting groundhogs who have lived at the Lutz.
“Animals seem to be more sensitive to atmospheric pressures,” noted Sarah Wilby, animal curator at the Lutz. Wilby took Chuckles outside early in the morning so that the groundhog could sniff the air in preparation for her weather prediction. “She’s been looking forward to this all year,” said Wilby.
Groundhog Day occurs halfway between the winter and summer solstices. “Every culture has a mid-winter tradition,” explained Lutz Executive Director Bob Eckert. Europeans look to a hedgehog  for their weather predictions.
In Connecticut, the animal is most often referred to as a groundhog. “Woodchuck is biologically-accepted name,” explained Wilby. The scientific name is marmot. It is part of the ground-squirrel family.
Chuckles came to the Lutz two years ago after rehabilitating from being hit by a car. She suffered a head injury, which has affected her balance, but not her weather-predicting abilities. A typical day includes a breakfast of fresh fruit and vegetables, and a lot of napping.
If Chuckles sees her shadow and ducks back into her hole, that means there will be six more weeks of winter. If she is not scared by her shadow, that means an early spring.
Even though school was cancelled due to the ice storm, 6-year-old Isabella of Manchester came to the Lutz to join in the annual festivities. “I want spring,” she exclaimed.
Louis Spadaccini was bestowed with the power of speaking to groundhogs when he became Manchester’s mayor. “Only mayors can talk to groundhogs,” said Spadaccini. He admits to having casual conversations with other groundhogs.
Chuckles emerged from her hole and was lifted to Spadaccini’s ear. After thanking everyone for joining her on such an wintry day, Chuckles whispered her prediction in the mayor’s ear. “Chuckles tells me that because of the ice storm, she did not see her shadow,” relayed Spadaccini, “so we’ll have an early spring.” Spadaccini then offered Chuckles a banana, which she graciously accepted and ate.
“I wish she’d said there was going to be an early end to this storm,” said Manchester Fire Chief Bob Bycholski, “but still, this is the best news I’ve heard in days.”
Campfield, 10, and his 7-year-old brother, Paxton, were both hoping for more winter, in order to give all the snow more time to melt slowly.
“We debated about postponing due to the weather,” said Eckert, “but when do we need the prediction more?” The small crowd at the Lutz seemed to enjoy the annual tradition, and cheered with the news of an early spring.


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