A few courageous members of Grundsow Lodge Nummer Sexa (No. 6) arrived at Cherry's Sunset Family Restaurant in Kresgeville this morning, despite the treacherous road conditions.
Since the demise of Schnogadahl Sammi III last year, (as yet no live groundhog has been found to fill the position of weather prognosticator,) Harold Kreger channeled Schnogadahl Sammi I's spirit for her prediction this morning. (Sammi I is now a stuffed groundhog.)
In Pennsylvania German, she told Kreger that she won't be seeing the sun today, so no shadow. Despite the cold weather, snow and wind, she was looking forward to an earlier spring.
This is the 16th year that Grundsow Lodge Nummer Sexa (No. 6) has been holding a Ground Hog Day ceremony behind Cherry's.
Last year, when visitors gathered around a hollowed-out tree stump with pine boughs around it, they were surprised to see a "Vacancy" sign on it.
Instead of seeing Sammi III coming out of the stump to give her prognostication, Grundsow Lodge No. 6 held a memorial service for her because she had passed away three days before Ground Hog Day.
Her handler, Fred Snyder of Gilbert, obtained Sammi III as a baby 11 years ago when she still had her eyes closed. She had been predicting the weather ever since.
According to member Robert Andrews, he told the story, with tongue in cheek, about how Sammi I met her demise in 1996 when Polk Township was holding its Sesquicentennial Parade. The Grundsow Lodge No. 6 had been invited to participate in the parade and Sammi was on the float.
"It was a hot day and there was no water to give her so she drank beer instead," said Andrews. "Sammi got out of control. She was annoyed by the sirens and noise and climbed up on a fire truck to smash the siren and fell off. She fell under a horse-drawn wagon, scared the horse which kicked Sammi into a nearby yard where there was a big German Shepherd.
"By now, Sammi was really out of control and bit the dog on the nose. The Grundsow brothers found only her hide, which they had stuffed. And there she is," he said, pointing to a stuffed ground hog held by Lodge member, Earl Meckes.
Andrews later explained what really happened. He said Sammi became ill after being in the sun too long that day and passed away.
Fred Snyder acquired Sammi II in 1992 as a baby and she predicted the weather for the next three years until the Pennsylvania Game Commission informed Snyder and the Lodge on Ground Hog Day in 1999 that they did not have a permit for Sammi and had to release her into the wild, which they did.
Snyder found Sammi III in October of 1999 and received a permit to own her.
She lived to the ripe old age of 10, three times the normal life span of a groundhog and is greatly missed.
Lee Haas, the president of Grundsow Lodge says that the Grundsow Lodge is all about preserving the Pennsylvania German language and traditions and having fun.
So even though last year Kathy Heller of Effort brought her pet raccoon, Roxie the Raccoon, to apply for the vacancy left by Sammi, Roxie found herself up against two century's worth of tradition. President Haas stood firm with tradition. He said that the groundhog has been the Pennsylvania German's teller of weather for the last 200 years and no raccoon could replace it, no matter how cute she is.
So will Grundsow Lodge Nummer Sexa have a live replacement for next year? Or will it continue to channel the original Sammi's spirit? You are invited to attend next year's event around sunrise at Cherry's Sunset Family Restaurant to find out in the continuing saga of Schnogadahl Sammi.
In the meantime, burrow in for a bit more winter weather.