Journal Inquirer

February 2, 2017

MANCHESTER — Tired eyes opened in excitement this morning when Mayor Jay Moran announced Chuckles the groundhog’s prediction of an early spring at the Lutz Children’s Museum.
Dozens of families gathered at the Lutz Museum before the 6:45 a.m. prediction to witness the state’s official groundhog, Chuckles VIII, deliver the good news.
The museum is home to Chuckles and the annual event every Feb. 2, when people young and old share an early breakfast and coffee before the weather prediction.
While other groundhogs determine spring’s arrival by by looking for their shadows, Chuckles whispers her prediction to the mayor, Jay Moran.
Moran joked that Chuckles shared that the New England Patriots would win the Super Bowl this Sunday before she got back on message.
“I got it, I got it,” Moran said leaning into Chuckles. “There will be a lot of unhappy people on the ski slopes — we are getting an early spring!”
Chuckles’ prediction this morning comes with heightened expectations after last year’s prediction of an early spring was followed by several snowstorms. The Suffield Police Department “arrested” and “charged” Chuckles with making false statements.
Moran warned Suffield’s brass the town of Manchester would defend Chuckles’ honor if they attempted to apprehend her.
Robert Eckert, the museum’s executive director, said Chuckles studied for the forecast by sniffing the wind, examining the sky, and deciding over bananas and almonds.
The yearly celebration is his favorite day of the year, Eckert said, but he doesn’t speak groundhogese. Eckert solicited the mayor’s help in relaying Chuckles’ prediction.
“Luckily when you’re elected mayor of Manchester you’re suddenly endowed with the ability to speak groundhog,” he told the crowd.
Museum educator Kayleigh Boose said Chuckles is approximately 6 years old and was brought to the museum in 2012 after she was found injured in a Vernon parking lot. Due to health problems, she is unable to survive in the wild, Boose said.
The celebrated groundhog has trouble breathing because of teeth that grew through her nasal cavity.
Chuckles gets steam baths and fresh produce from Highland Park Market as she preps for her close up, Eckert said
Chuckles sleeps a lot this time of year, he said, adding she is comfortable with the attention.
“I think she’s just resting for the big day,” he said. “She’s a professional and needs to be looking and feeling her best.”
Eckert said visitors crowd the annual event and many others watch on television because everybody wants to see the state’s official groundhog.
Still, he said the museum has more to offer, such as free classes, special events, animals, and outreach programs across the state, he said.
“The museum is busy year round,” Eckert said. “More people do come this time of year to see Connecticut Chuckles up close.”
The event is supported by about 100 volunteers of all ages who assist the Lutz’s staff of a dozen.
Museum workers welcomed families around 6 a.m. as children enjoyed breakfast and crafts, while others maneuvered for position to pet animals provided by staff.
Children joined in song as Town Troubador Dan Thompson led the anxious group through an acoustic tune commemorating the special day.
A chorus of “awe” filled the room after Boose lifted Chuckles from her temporary nest beneath the podium.
Eckert said Chuckles embraces the star treatment.