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Grosse Pointe Farms

Farms Winterfest gets wild this year

Woody the groundhog, other wildlife to make special appearances

January 31, 2013

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With Grosse Pointe Farms’ Winterfest on the Hill coinciding with Groundhog Day this year, organizers are bringing in a special guest — Woody the groundhog — from the Howell Conference and Nature Center. She’ll make a special appearance and offer her seasonal prediction at 1 p.m. Feb. 2.

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Move over, Punxsutawney Phil. There’s a new seasonal prognosticator, and she’s making her way to the Farms for Groundhog Day.

Woody, a female groundhog known as Michigan’s official groundhog, will be coming all the way from the Howell Conference and Nature Center for a special appearance, as a part of the sixth annual Winterfest on the Hill on Saturday, Feb. 2. City Manager Shane Reeside said Mayor James Farquhar will be on hand for the big moment, in a coat and top hat, to present Woody and the nature center with a resolution at 1 p.m. near the Winterfest tent in the Richard Elementary School parking lot.

“I wanted to rename (Woody) ‘Pointes-sutawney Phil,’ but they wouldn’t let us,” Reeside said with a laugh.

For those who can’t make it to the traditional Groundhog Day ceremony with Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania, Reeside said, “This is a way of experiencing it here in Grosse Pointe Farms.”

Groundhogs — also known as woodchucks — are rodents said to be most closely related to squirrels. Legend has it that, if the groundhog sees his shadow — or, in this case, her shadow — there will be six more weeks of winter. If no shadow is visible, an early spring is expected.

Parks and Recreation Director Richard Huhn said nature center representatives will be talking a bit about groundhogs, and they’re also expected to bring a few other winter animals for people to see and learn about. The whole presentation isn’t likely to last more than an hour, he said.

“It’s kind of an interesting twist,” Huhn said of bringing in Woody and her nature center pals. “It’s a neat additional element to (Winterfest). We just need Mother Nature to cooperate.”

In addition to Woody, Winterfest on the Hill promises plenty of fun for kids and adults. Unlike other Grosse Pointe winter festivals, which are held in the city parks, this event is open to anyone, regardless of their city of residence. Farms Recreation and Aquatic Coordinator Michele Eickhorst said they’ll have some football-oriented games, since the event takes place the same weekend as the Super Bowl. These include a beanbag-tossing game called “cornhole” and a football-kicking contest, she said.

Last year, Eickhorst said they estimated attendance at Winterfest at around 600-800 people. Free hotdogs and other food are among the attractions, as are giveaways from Hill merchants. Since moving the event to the Hill from Pier Park several years ago, Winterfest has been produced with assistance from the Hill Association.

“They’re very positive, and they love this event,” Eickhorst said of the local business leaders. “They have great ideas.”

Winterfest is free and will take place from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Hill business district, which is located along Kercheval, between Moran and Fisher. A chili cook-off will take place in the lower level of 131 Kercheval, with entries to be judged by the public from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The deadline to enter the contest was Jan. 30. Visitors to Winterfest can also get complimentary hotdogs and other refreshments, and there will be children’s games, cookie decorating, face painting, live ice carving demonstrations, putt-putt golf, s’mores, prizes and music by Pro DJ Services.

For more information, call Farms Parks and Recreation at (313) 343-2405.

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