Wiarton Willie is one of the prominent Groundhogs relied on for Winter predictions. When I moved from the Bruce Peninsula to the Niagara Peninsula in 1997, I managed to remove some documents from the active Wiarton Willie files and establish the Wiarton Willie Archives in a Burrow in our backyard in central St. Catharines Ontario.
For a few years c1987 to 1991 I had served as a volunteer Public Relations and media relations person for the Wiarton Willie entourage. We were anxious to get more media outlets to pay attention to Willie and to contact us for advance interviews.
Our releases and backgrounders –refreshed each year–had some sly hints on somewhat absurd claims and colour that could be pursued in interview form with our phone bank volunteers:
-We claimed a photo was from a “Playburrow centrefold”; that Willie was an honorary citizen of the recently established Bruce Peninsula National Park, that his powers were due to his birthplace in a nearby field on the 45th parallel midway between equator and north pole, and that Groundhog reports were excluded from the Free Trade agreements being negotiated at that time.. On the free trade file we claimed that the Groundhogs could not tolerate “level playing fields” and insisted on fields of burrows and holes and mounds and uneven topography.
The topics attracted media calls from all over the Americas and broadened our reach and firmly established the preeminence of the Wiarton Willie Feb 2 Groundhog reports.
Major network and independent news outlets pursued the silly subjects and I am sure Fox news was one of the callers insisting it was all an alien plot!
I honour the founding efforts and continuing antics of Mac McKenzie who started it all on a weekend in the 1950s. Later, during his winter sailing excursions in the Caribbean, I was pleased to fill in with writing and concept of this annual postal campaign. That was a time when postal services were still used to contact media.
Three pages from the campaign are here:Wiarton Willie PR003002