For 15 years, Grundsow Lodge Nummer Sexa (#6) has been holding a Ground Hog Day ceremony in the back of Cherry's Sunset Family Restaurant in Kresgeville.

This year was no exception.

When persons gathered around a hollowed-out tree stump with pine boughs around it in the back of Cherry's early this morning to hear Schnogadahl Sammi's weather prediction, they were surprised to see a "Vacancy" sign on it.

Unfortunately, instead of Sammi coming out of the stump to give her prognostication, Grundsow Lodge #6 held a memorial service for her.

Sammi passed away on Saturday, just three days before her big yearly appearance.

Her handler, Fred Snyder of Gilbert, got Sammi as a baby 10 years ago when she still had her eyes closed. She had been predicting the weather ever since.

Robert Andrews, vice president, gave a history of the three Sammis, all handled by their owner, Snyder. He gave Sammi I's account of her demise in Pennsylvania Dutch. With tongue in cheek, he said that Polk Township was holding its Sesquicentennial Parade in 1996. The Grundsow Lodge #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.

After the ceremony, Andrews explained what really happened. He said Sammi became ill after being in the sun too long that day and passed away.

"But the Grundsow Lodge is all about fun," he said.

Fred Snyder acquired Sammi II in 1992 as a baby and bottle fed her as well and raised her to be Sammi I's replacement. She predicted the weather for the next three years until the Pennsylvania Game Commission informed Fred 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.

Fred 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. She will be missed," said Andrews.

Lee Haas, the president of Grundsow Lodge welcomed everyone to the morning's event saying that the Grundsow Lodge is all about preserving the Pennsylvania German language and traditions and having fun. He introduced the members present and turned the program over to Harold Kreger, who has been interpreting Sammi's predictions over the years.

Kreger said, "It's a sad day. Sammi went to heaven. When I heard she was ill, I went to visit her. She told me she felt lousy and in case she couldn't make it today, she told me to write this down.

"Whether or not if the sun would shine, I think it will be six more weeks of winter. Some of this cold weather, (I hate it) will be here, some snow, wind and maybe some rain again. Say 'Hello' to all my friends. Sorry if I don't make it. Don't worry. I'll be where there is a lot of alfalfa, clover, dandelion, leaves and soy beans."

Then Kreger asked if anyone has a live ground hog they would like to donate to the Lodge for one hour, one time a year, please contact one of the Lodge directors.

"We now have a vacancy," he said.

One of the many who braved the 19-degree frosty morning was Cindy Brown of Gilbert. She brought her two daughters, son and a friend for the event.

"This is our fourth time. It's fun for the children. We come for breakfast first, hear the prediction and then I take them to school," she said.

Marissa Brown, 14, thinks it's kind of fun to come out for it.

Her sister, Cassie, 10 thinks it's cool while brother, Nathan, 8, liked the fact that he could go back to school and tell his friends.

Matthew Plattenburg, 9, said it was his first year and thought it was pretty cool and that he wouldn't mind coming back next year.

Another first-timer, Aubrey Freeby, 12, thought it was very interesting but was a little disappointed that she didn't get to see Sammi.

In his opening prayer, Andrews said it was another cold morning but was thankful for the opportunity to get together again.

"We don't always appreciate God's world and the world's not a happy place right now and the reason is because we forgot how to pray."

He said they are thankful for their Pennsylvania language and ways and thanked people for coming and hopes it will be a blessed day for all.

It was a fitting tribute to Sammi the Third.

Time will tell if there will be a Sammi the Fourth.