Photo provided by Hamilton County ParksKids in a Cool Creek Park nature program search for hibernating insects.
Photo provided by Hamilton County Parks

Kids in a Cool Creek Park nature program search for hibernating insects.
It's Groundhog Day. The day when everybody wants to know the answer to one particular question: "Will the Groundhog see his shadow."

At press time, I didn't have the answer. Though, the sun was supposed to be out by 8 a.m. today here in Noblesville.

However, the forecast calls for "mostly cloudy" in Punxsutawney, Pa., where the first Groundhog Day took place 130 years ago today, on Feb. 2, 1887.

Tradition states that if a groundhog comes out of its hole today and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. No shadow means that spring is right around the corner.

"It should be the opposite. I never figured that out," said Sheridan's Dan Popiela, a naturalist for the Hamilton County Parks Department, who has always been curious about the Groundhog Day tradition.

Nicknamed "Nature Dan," the 42-year-old Purdue University grad invites families to come out to Cool Creek Nature Center at 3:30 p.m. today, when he'll call up his favorite groundhog to predict the weather.

Does that mean he'll wake up a groundhog hibernating in Westfield's 90-acre Cool Creek Park?

"Nope. We got a puppet," he said, chuckling, although he keeps an eye out for groundhogs in the park.

"There's a potential you might see one," he said. "I see them around. I see the holes here and there, but I don't go searching out the holes."

He usually sees groundhogs in the fall before hibernation and then expects them to return from hibernation in February or March.

This afternoon, he'll share with kids "a little bit of history behind Groundhog Day during his free 40-minute program. "I'll be talking about cultural history (it's a European tradition, he said) what they eat and what they're doing in the winter time," he said of "our largest squirrel."

Popiela, who's been leading the program for more than six years, always enjoyed the curiosity that surrounded Groundhog Day when he was a kid growing up in northern Indiana. "I remember the cool thing, it was a day in the middle of the winter to get excited about."

Besides today's Groundhog Day, parks naturalists and staff are celebrating two milestones in 2017. Cool Creek Nature Center will turn 20 in September, and the Parks Department will celebrate 50 years in March. They're asking the community to send them old photographs during this year-long celebration..

Read more about what's happening during this year of celebration in upcoming editions of The Times.

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