It’s Willie’s day!

It was on this day in 1956 that Mac Mackenzie, of Wiarton, Ont., a town on Georgian Bay three hours northwest of Toronto, sent out a press release inviting people to Wiarton for a Groundhog Day party.

When a Toronto Star reporter arrived and asked where the groundhog was, Mac threw his wife’s fur hat into the snow and the reporter took a picture; today’s Wiarton Willie Groundhog Day festival attracts major crowds.

Years later, in 1999, Willie Groundhog Day Festival became mired in scandal as the organizers discovered, only a couple of days before the big event, that Willie had passed away while hibernating during the winter; they put what they claimed was a lifeless Willie in a little casket with pennies over his eyes and clutching a carrot.

The scandal erupted when it leaked out that his real body was so badly decomposed it could not be shown to the public. Instead, organizers put a stuffed version in the casket. For the next five years a replacement, “Wee Willie”, fulfilled the role until he was replace by “Wee Willie 2”.

On Jan. 14, 2013 Canada Post released  four definitives depicting young animals indigenous to Canada, including the groundhog.

Created by designers Monique Dufour and Sophie Lafortune, these stamps are in the same visual style as the past two editions of this series, with the image of the animal in question set against a mainly white background, with a hint of their natural habitat revealed.

All four animals are native to Canada’s forests and fields.

According to a Canada Post release at the time, baby woodchucks – also known as groundhogs or whistle-pigs – are born hairless, blind and totally helpless. Prey to foxes, hawks, coyotes, and dogs, they begin life outside the burrow with short trips to eat grass and clover. Generally an annual litter of two to nine pups is born toward the end of March or early April. By midsummer, these “teenage” groundhogs will leave their natal den, and move into their own starter burrows, which are usually no more than a few yards away.

As of this date, the Royal Canadian Mint has not released any coinage with a groundhog on it!


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