Saturday, August 30, 2014

Wiarton, Ontario: Wiarton Willie

You certainly have heard of Punxsutawney Phil, the weather-predicting groundhog who lives in Pennsylvania. But what about the Canadian equivalent, Wiarton Willie?

Canada has its own competitor in this area, and he lives on the Bruce Peninsula. Willie comes out of his hole on February 2, and heads right back into the dirt if he sees his shadow for six weeks.

This started in 1955 as something of a hoax. Local resident Mac McKenzie had a party on Feb. 2, and a Toronto reporter thought it was an actual celebration. Well, the next year, McKenzie started an actual event for it, and 35 attended. Now the number is closer to 10,000. The traffic must be awful, just like in Punxsutawney.

Pictured here is Willie's living space. The catch is that you can't see Willie in this habitat designed by the Toronto Zoo. He comes out of the hole and looks around around 8:30 in the morning and at dusk. Otherwise, you are out of lucky. In Punxsutawney, Phil and Phyllis live in the library, and visitors can see them all the time, year-round. It's almost sad that visitors usually can't see Wiarton's most famous resident.

Meanwhile, the marketing efforts of the town concerning Willie are on the feeble side. You'd think you would have all sorts of souvenirs, cleverly designed, on sale. Alas, the Chamber of Commerce building attached to Willie's home only has a few items. Post cards are $2.50. Sigh. If you go to the Wiarton web site, it has a page devoted to a store that is called "Willie Headquarters." When we went there, the store was empty ... and had been for some time. Thanks for making us search for the store, guys.

Obviously, Wiarton doesn't have much money for marketing purposes. Still, you'd have to think it was missing a golden opportunity. You don't want to send tourists home unhappy.

Care to see what Feb. 2 in Wiarton is like? We can help.

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