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Wiarton Willie
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    (circa 1977-January 1999)
    Albino groundhog
    On Groundhog Day (February 2nd), predicted whether there would be an early spring based on whether he saw his shadow
    Featured in the Wiarton Willie Festival held in Wiarton, Ontario
    After his death, succeeded by Wee Willie and Wee Willie 2
    Wiarton began holding a Groundhog Day festival in 1956, but Willie did not appear on the scene until the early '80s.
    He apparently killed off two understudy groundhogs in 2003. (And people said Bette Davis was difficult to work with!)
    A town official was accused of covering up the deaths to avoid harming tourism.
    He was officially 22 when he died, but given that the typical lifespan of a groundhog is only four to nine years, there were suspicions that previous Willies had died and been quietly replaced.
    The 1999 Festival featured Willie in a coffin, dressed in a tuxedo, with coins over his eyes and holding a carrot.
    It was later revealed that the body in the coffin was a stuffed stand-in, used because the real Willie had decomposed too badly for display.
    Followers claimed that his predictions were uncannily accurate, crediting Wiarton's location at the 45th parallel, exactly halfway between the Equator and North Pole.
    Wiarton erected a statue in his honor.
    In addition to rodents predicting the weather, the Wiarton Willie Festival features parades, dances, sleigh rides, Monte Carlo night, a fish fry and tournaments in ice hockey, curling, snooker and darts.
    The Festival pumps an estimated $750,000 into the local economy each year.
    The Wiarton Willie Festival was twice named 'World's Greatest Event' by of Seattle.

Credit: C. Fishel

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