One near-blizzard was apparently enough for Octoraro Orphie.

The meteorological marmot failed — despite sunny skies — to see his shadow on Groundhog Day, meaning spring will come six weeks early, according to lore.

Richard Rankin announced Orphie's 108th prediction from atop the Pinnacle of Prognostication — a manure spreader in the unpaved parking lot of The Slumbering Groundhog Lodge of Quarryville along the Octoraro Creek.

Rankin, the hibernating governor, rendered Orphie’s forecast after gathering reports from the lodge's seven squads. It was about 8:30 a.m. with the temperature right around freezing.

Groundhog Day is rooted in a German superstition that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow Feb. 2, the Christian holiday Candlemas, winter will last six more weeks. No shadow means an early spring.

Forecasting aside, the event is also an opportunity for revelry.

Squad members had spent the early morning scouting for Orphie across the county's southern end near Kirkwood.

With colorful oration and sometimes in rhyme, squad leaders at times nodded to current events as they addressed the audience, largely made up of members wearing white coats and black top hats.

"Unlike Steve Harvey, Orphie has not made any mistakes. This is Orphie we are talking about here, for heaven’s sakes," said Denny Sneath of the Dill Pickle squad.

Mike Reynolds of the Baldy Boot squad reported Orphie had been hard to find: "... he was simply hiding from the political process."

At hearing Donald Trump was still polling strong: "Orphie grows ever more concerned that a wall will be built along the Octoraro separating him from his beloved brethren."

A skit and a dunking

That Groundhog Day fell on a weekday meant most of the several hundred attendees were members, their families and friends.

A brief parade across the covered bridge adjacent to the lodge preceded the forecast. A skit about a mind reading device some members were trying to bring to market followed.

The device involved a throne (a toilet), a wired helmet and a printer — an outhouse that spat out an answer through a slot. A man, make that a "power gerbil," on a treadmill generated power.

Several members put on the helmet, which purported to discern their ambition.

Rankin, head of the Murray Securus insurance brokerage, aspired to be the Geico Gecko. John Fiorill, chief of the Southern Regional Police Department? Barney Fife.

After that, one of six new inductees, known as babies, was dunked into the icy creek.

Taking fun seriously

Each year, the lodge inducts an honorary member. This year, it was former county commissioner` Scott Martin.

He'd never been to the event before and called it one of the biggest honors of his life.

"It's quite a production ... They take their fun really seriously and it's a great group of guys from a cross section of the community," he said holding a cup of coffee — not one of the more popular beverages spotted.

Kim Davis, whose husband Bill Davis joined three years ago, summed up a view shared by many: "The stresses of life are hard enough. We just come down here and have a good time."

Jim Stack, 40, of Quarryville, isn't a member, but has attended since he was 18.

"It's a social gathering ... It's local people you grew up with," said the nuclear plant welder.

Matt Keasey, president of Spring Spring House Brewing Co., came after hearing about it for a couple years.

Brewers Rob Tarves and Isaac Barber joined him.

What brought them? “Ambiance,” Keasey said, joking they might still be there Wednesday.


For what it’s worth, here’s how Orphie has fared since 2010, based on LNP archives and historic weather data:

2015: Early spring (We had four snowstorms of more than 2 inches or more after Groundhog Day.)

2014: Six more weeks of winter (A snowstorm dumped 9 inches of snow on parts of the county a day after Groundhog Day.)

2013: Early Spring (It snowed on March 25 that year.)

2012: Early spring (We got very little snow after Groundhog Day, 2.7 inches through the remainder of the season)

2011: Six more weeks of winter (Two minor snowfalls in February of that year totaled 4.5 inches)

2010: Early spring (We got 24 inches of snow three days later.)