Orphie says spring is near - LancasterOnline: News

Orphie says spring is near

Takes issue with Phil's gloomy outlook

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Posted: Tuesday, February 2, 2010 9:51 pm | Updated: 7:54 pm, Wed Sep 11, 2013.

That other groundhog in Pennsylvania - whatever its name is - got it wrong.

Octoraro Orphie got it right when he did not see his shadow shortly after sunrise Tuesday morning in southern Lancaster County. So take it to the bank: Spring is near.

As the Slumbering Groundhog Lodge of Quarryville's new Hibernating Governor, Richard Rankin, proclaimed to a waiting world along the banks of the West Branch of Octoraro Creek:

"The sun is not burning, but the weather will be sunny. Put your sled in the shed, put your heat lower and fire up your mower. Spring is just around the corner."

The pronouncement from the crest of the Pinnacle of Prognostication, better known as a manure spreader, contradicted the prediction from Punxsutawney Phil, who sees six more weeks of winter.

Orphie's call that spring is near prompted a rousing cheer from about 150 Hibernating Governors, suitably dressed for the occasion in white lab coats and black top hats.

Another hundred or so onlookers yelled in acclamation - it's hard to clap with a drink in your hand - then gathered again around the robust bonfire burning near - but not too close to - the White Rock covered bridge.

VIDEO: Orphie is ready for spring

The 102nd annual Groundhog Day celebration temporarily swelled the population of sparsely populated Colerain Township, which has 3,431 permanent residents.

Barry Bricker, 32, a Manheim native, drove nearly six hours from West Virginia the day before to attend the event. He said he hadn't attended the Groundhog Day celebration in several years, and missed it.

"It's a reason to have a real good time in February," he said, clutching a cold beer in the 22-degree morning air.

Alongside him, fellow whitewater rafting guide Charles Seay, 32, of Fayetteville. W.Va., deadpanned, "To be honest, this guy told me he was taking me to an AA meeting. I think I've been hornswoggled."

Another out-of-stater witnessing the spectacle for the first time was Ray Bowen, 70, who moved to Willow Street from New Jersey several months ago.

"The groundhog in Pennsylvania is pretty important," he said.

Tom Appel, 25, of Conestoga, hopes to become a Slumbering Groundhog some day.

He scored points by passing around samples of his latest batch of goose jerky, some of which met favor with a nearby club member, who asked Appel how old he was.

(Slumbering Groundhogs must be at least 35 years old because they all have the potential to be president of the United States.)

Determining that Orphie avoided being startled by his shadow was no easy matter. It took six observation squads who set out with lanterns in the dark.

The news of spring's impending arrival hardly marked the end of the morning's festivities.

Member Michael Ranck, Lancaster County's former district attorney, danced the Groundhog Jig on a square of plywood.

Four Baby Hogs, invited to become full-fledged Slumbering Groundhogs after seven years of surveillance, were paraded from the covered bridge.

At the vanguard was the Groundhog Marching Band, a handful of pathetic musicians mishandling drums, hunting horns and a violin. A smattering of duck calls added to the cacophony.

Chester E. Eckman, a retired farmer from Peach Bottom, Eugene M. Petri, of Pequea, Paul D. Smith, of Willow Street, and Robert "Gus" Torello, of Nottingham, wore long johns, baby bonnets and sucked on pacifiers.

Torello, wearing a yellow rain suit, was placed on a wooden swing then lowered slowly by a boom into the icy Octoraro - not once but twice.

Torello came up spitting water but gave the thumbs up, so elated was he at his new inclusion into such an illustrious inner circle.

The men then had to kneel on all fours and stick their derrieres up in the air. Honorary Groundhog and former Lancaster city Mayor Charlie Smithgall completed their baptism by fire and water by shooting a cannon stuffed with paper and flour over their backsides.

There was an uneasy moment when current Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray, also an Honorary Groundhog, was ordered to stand with the Baby Hogs.

Given the recent political friction between the two, some wondered if Smithgall should be in charge of the cannon.

As if on cue, Smithgall quipped, "Loading the nails now."

After 28 years as Hibernating Governor, Dr. James E. Pennington passed the dubious honor to Rankin, president of Murray Risk Management and Insurance. Rankin grew up just outside of Quarryville.

Oh, if anyone cares, somewhere in western Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow.

Whatever.

acrable@lnpnews.com

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