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Stuffed Vernon weather rodent says early spring

Okanagan Okie did not see his shadow - or much of anything due to fog - at Allan Brooks Nature Centre event

Given the Friday morning fog that enveloped his Commonage Road home, it’s a wonder Okanagan Okie could see anything.

And he didn’t.

Greater Vernon’s prognosticating stuffed rodent meteorologist emerged from its royal green blanket courtesy of Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming at the Allan Brooks Nature Centre on – naturally – Groundhog Day to predict a quick demise to winter.

“Oh joy. I do not see a shadow of me,” said Okie through his interpreter, Mayor Cumming, Friday morning, Feb. 2. “So let us celebrate an early spring.”

Cumming was quick to point out to the crowd of close to 100 that at the second annual Groundhog Day celebration at the nature centre in 2023, Okanagan Okie also failed to see his shadow.

“Remember how cold it was last year? It (early spring) didn’t come. I feel for Okie, down one on that one,” said Cumming, toque-less and minus several layers of clothing from his speech in 2023.

“Groundhog Day is a reminder that just like life, we can’t always predict what’s coming around the corner. But we can face it with a sense of humour and community spirit.”

Vernon Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu – dressed in stylish heel shoes, pointed out deftly by event emcee Rebecca Barton of Beach Radio – said Groundhog Day is not just about predicting the weather.

“It’s celebrating nature’s cycle and the testament of her deep connection with the environment and a reminder to the resilience of life as we eagerly await the verdict of our furry meteorologist,” said Sandhu.

Nature centre manager Cheryl Hood explained to the crowd there were a few reasons why a stuffed yellow-bellied marmot serves as a weather predictor.

“We’re not a nature park where we have the facilities or abilities to ensure we keep the animals healthy and safe in the environment,” said Hood.

“The other issue is that the yellow-bellied marmot is a wild animal and, for us, wild animals should stay wild and we love having people come up here and enjoying them in their natural environment.

“If we disturb their hibernation and sleep pattern, they don’t live as long as the ones in the wild. So for health and safety we use Okanagan Okie as our stuffed meteorologist.”

The Allan Brooks Nature Centre will open for its 2024 season on Saturday, April 20, with staff and volunteers planning a number of special events for opening day.

The centre will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2025. The Allan Brooks Nature Centre opened July 1, 2000.

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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