February 01, 2024

Sen. Manchin: Groundhog Day back on in French Creek, West Virginia

There will be a Groundhog Day celebration in West Virginia after all, according to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Although Gov. Jim Justice previously announced the West Virginia Wildlife Center in French Creek had been temporarily closed by federal order, the state's favorite weather-watching rodent will have a chance to make his prediction on Friday, Manchin said in a press release.

“After speaking with [United States Department of Agriculture] Secretary Vilsack yesterday, I have been assured that French Creek Freddie will have the opportunity to look for his shadow tomorrow morning," Manchin said. "Secretary Vilsack and I have remained friends since our time as governors and while we continue to work to fully re-open the WV Wildlife Center, I am excited to see that the festivities will proceed tomorrow and hope French Creek Freddie will not see his shadow, forecasting an early spring."

West Virginia's 2024 Groundhog Day Ceremony is scheduled to begin just before 10 a.m. on Friday, according to information released by Justice's office.

Members of the public are invited to attend the ceremony, which will start at 9:50 a.m. with an opening ceremony. The event will also be livestreamed.

“We extend our gratitude to the USDA for their support," Justice said in a press release. "So I ask all West Virginians to join us as we mark this tradition tomorrow. We all look forward to reopening the Wildlife Center to the public soon."

The state's Groundhog Day celebrations, which have taken place annually since 1978, are a "cornerstone of community spirit and local tradition," said West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Director Brett McMillion.

"I want to invite everyone to come out and celebrate this victory for our community and continue to enjoy and participate in our state's unique traditions,” he said.

Justice announced the closure during his press briefing Wednesday.

“Our State Wildlife Center in French Creek is temporarily closed due to an abrupt decision by the USDA to no longer recognize an indefinite variance for a secondary containment fence that was issued 24 years ago,” the governor said.

The administration provided additional information regarding the cause of the closure on Thursday. The issue involves a "pending relicensing procedure through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service."

Other than Friday's event, the Wildlife Center will remain closed to the public as it undergoes relicensing.

By:  Charles Young
Source: WV News