Fenwick Flossie says six more weeks of winter coming our way
BY SAMUEL PICCOLO
To the surprise of no one shivering in the cold last Friday, the Fenwick Lions’ resident groundhog Flossie saw her shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. Students from Wellington Heights Elementary School, St. Ann’s Catholic School, and Fonthill Montessori Preschool pressed up against the barricades, shouting “Flossie” over and over again.
Flossie first poked her head out just before ten o’clock, but after being advised that there was still a busload of kids to arrive, returned back inside her burrow for another few minutes. The students present didn’t seem to mind the wait, though the temperature had some of the adults anxiously eyeing the road for the bus’ arrival.
“C’mon,” said one photographer as he blew into his hands. “We’re not all wearing big furry suits.”
The “Fabulous” Fenwick Lions began this event 24 years ago, said Lion Rob Henson, who has organized Flossie’s emergence for the past 14 years.
Earlier in the morning before the students began arriving, Henson was taking shelter inside the Lions’ Hall with other members of the group.
“To be honest, I have no idea how the whole thing started,” he said, looking around to the other Lions milling about. They all floated a few theories out.
“How about we just say, ‘It was something to do in the middle of winter,’” said one woman with a laugh. Henson agreed.
“It’s a unique day because all of the kids come here—some of them are bussed, and sometimes they walk from the Fenwick schools. We have a colouring contest for all of the different schools, too,” said Henson. On a table beside him was stack of brightly crayoned pages and a list of winners.
When Henson went outside, he was flagged down by a Cogeco cameraman standing at his tripod near Flossie’s pine-bough burrow.
“I saw Punxsutawney Phil and Wiarton Willie on the Weather Network this morning, and they both predicted more winter,” said the cameraman to Henson. “So now it’s up to Flossie.”
He handed Henson a microphone and had him count to ten to test the sound levels.
“What should I call you on the air?” asked the cameraman.
“You can call me ‘Hungry Lion Rob,’” said Henson. “Or Crazy Stuntman Bob. They call me that too, after I injured myself a while ago.”
He squinted into the sun as the camera was adjusted.
“Let’s have you talk about Flossie a little bit,” said the cameraman. “It feels strange asking that question about a guy in a suit.”
“Oh no, it’s a real groundhog,” said Henson with a straight face. “Flossie is on the older side—she’s 78 years old, and she’ll awake from her winter nap today and make a prediction about spring.”
The cameraman refrained from laughing as he asked Henson a follow-up question.
“What sort of accuracy has she had?”
“Ninety-nine percent,” said Henson. “It’s really just a great day. The kids will all start arriving here shortly, and then they’ll scream their heads off until Flossie comes out. We have hot chocolate and cookies for them too.”
After the camera was switched off, Henson broke character.
“We got a new suit a few years ago,” he said to the cameraman. “It cost two thousand dollars. The one we had before that was handmade by one of the Lionesses. It’s teeth were made out of styrofoam plates.”
The delayed bus only set the proceedings back by five minutes. When the children had walked, slowly, two-by-two to the barriers, the screaming again reached a crescendo.
Henson waved his arms encouragingly, like a mascot at a hockey game, urging the kids to shout louder and deafen Flossie from her repose.
Finally, a brown dome poked through the hole. Flossie raised her head to face the sun—and the screaming kids. Through the eyes of black mesh was clearly visible the bespectacled face of a Lion.
“There’s a man in there!” shouted one boy. The rest of the group either didn’t hear him, didn’t notice, or didn’t care, and kept screaming away as the groundhog lumbered towards the crowd. They were too excited to freeze.