An early spring isn’t in the cards, if you believe Boulder’s stuffed, yellow-bellied marmot’s shadow-based weather reports.
Technical difficulties meant the key moment was muted, but Flatiron Freddy still could be seen casting a shadow in the bright sun during the livestreamed, COVID-safe program held Tuesday morning via Zoom.
The “magnificent marmot forecaster” — decked out in a yellow fire coat, top hat and mask — rode in on the hood of a ranger truck at Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks operations center off Cherryvale Road. The rangers relocated the annual Groundhog Day tradition from the more public Chautauqua Park location to avoid drawing a crowd.
Dave Gustafson, the lead ranger and naturalist at Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks department who led the festivities, highlighted how global warming is increasing wildfires. Seasonal rangers dug a Pulaski fire ax, roll of fire hose, emergency fire shelter and a red card out of the hollow log where Freddy purportedly makes his home.
The red card was Freddy’s firefighting certification, received Oct. 17, the date the CalWood Fire started. The late-season fire burned 10,106 acres in Boulder County, destroying 20 homes.
“We have to do something about global warming,” Gustafson said. “That’s always (Freddy’s) message.”
To coax the prognosticating marmot into the open this year, Gustafson urged those watching from home to sing a magical Flatiron Freddy-themed song to the tune of “I’m a Little Tea Pot.”
“I’m a little groundhog, short and stout,” he chanted. “Bushy little tail, short little snout. If I see my shadow, don’t you fret. Six more weeks of winter, yeah you bet.”
Along with his forecasting skills, Freddy likes to help with Super Bowl wagers. He predicts the Chiefs will win by 10 over the Buccaneers. Tom Brady, according to Freddy, has enough championship rings.
Freddy gets to live his best not-life during his yearly appearances, arriving in past years in a canoe, bobsled, skis, monster truck, parachute and, last year, gondola.
His story is he was hit by a car in the 1970s in the area of Pearl Street Mall while trying to become the city’s first street performer. Once stuffed, he spent most of his “life” at the Flagstaff Visitor Center, then the “beat up rodent” was rescued from a dumpster by thrifty rangers.
While there have been rumors the aging Freddy will soon be replaced with a more freshly stuffed version, the plan is to keep using the original, now duct-taped and stapled, marmot until it’s “no longer recognizable,” Gustafson said.
“We decided to see how long he goes,” he said. “We put a costume on him and it’s good.”
He noted groundhogs can’t predict the weather in Colorado because they’re not found here. Instead, they make their burrows in the eastern United States, up to Canada and into Alaska. But yellow bellied marmots like Freddy can sometimes be found at Chautauqua, though they tend to prefer higher elevations.
While weather forecasting is a tricky business, Freddy’s prediction mirrored that of his central Pennsylvania counterpart, Punxsutawney Phil. Phil also saw his shadow, according to CNN.com.
Freddy’s forecast is off to a good start. After temperatures climbed into the 60s locally on Tuesday, moisture comes back into the picture Wednesday with a 60% chance of snow Wednesday night, according to the National Weather Service.