Groundhog Day falls on a Saturday this year and organizers of the Wiarton Willie Festival are predicting a crowd of revelers like never before.
“It’s going to be beautiful fluffy snow according to the forecast. It’s going to be not too cold. And it’s just going to be the biggest Groundhog Day celebration in the history of Wiarton because of the weekend, combined with the fact that we’ve amped up the entertainment so much,” festival volunteer Leigh Grigg said Wednesday.
Canadian alternative rock band Sloan is scheduled to headline a Saturday night concert at the Willie Big Tent at Bluewater Park. Other acts on the bill are Thunder Bay trio Bella Clava and the Chatham indie rock band The Long Lots.
Festival events are to begin Friday and include a comedy show, Monte Carlo Night and performance by the Midnight Blue Band.
Of course, the centrepiece of the Wiarton Willie Festival is the groundhog’s annual prediction, which will happen at exactly 8:07 a.m. at the outdoor stage.
According to folklore, if the albino whistle pig sees his shadow, another six weeks of winter weather is ahead. No shadow means spring is near.
“With the unpredictable weather and, just this week alone, wild weather, hot and cold, the focus will be on Willie nationwide,” Grigg said.
There will be many things to see and do on prediction morning, he said.
“At the crack of dawn, in fact in the dark, there will be entertainment in the park. There will be face painting, there will be people carving ice sculptures competitively. Everything’s happening Saturday morning — glow sticks for everybody, there’s cowbells, there’s free pancakes,” he said.
Entertainment, children’s activities, sporting events and other happenings are scheduled to take place throughout Saturday and until Sunday at 4 p.m.
Grigg said the Wiarton Willie Festival continues to be a huge draw in the middle of winter.
“It’s the charm of the small-town events,” he said. “And the star of the show is a mascot, as opposed to having an event and having a mascot. Willie is a lovable character so I think that’s what does it,” he said.
More information and a complete events schedule can be found at www.wiartonwilliefestival.com.