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Groundhog Day is a popular tradition that dates back to the mid-1800s and has roots in the German communities of Pennsylvania. This weather folklore is based on using an animal to forecast the weather.

The most popular Groundhog Day ceremony takes place each year on February 2nd in the western Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney. A mythical groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his burrow to predict either an early spring or an extended winter. If Phil sees his shadow because of clear skies, it means winter will persist for six more weeks; however, if he doesn’t see his shadow because of clouds, spring is right around the corner.

On Friday morning, the faculty, staff and students at Washington Lands Elementary School started a new tradition when they held their own Groundhog Day celebration. The school’s first-ever forecasting ceremony took place on the playground and began with Physical Education teacher Michael Grimm reading a proclamation, similar to the one recited during the Punxsutawney festivities. Instead of a groundhog, the kitten of WLES Speech Therapist Becky Hinerman was used as the forecaster.

When Wildcat Wally, named after the school’s mascot, was lifted from his cat carrier, he did not see his shadow because of a cloudy sky. Most students erupted with applause for the prognosis of a sooner-than-expected spring. Wildcat Wally’s prediction wasn’t well-received from some students, however. Their disappointment stemmed from wanting six more weeks of winter in hopes of days off from school because of snow.

No matter the outcome, the entire student body enjoyed meeting Wildcat Wally.