Kids Fun: Free Groundhog Day Events in Raleigh, Garner

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Photo courtesy of Rob Smith/Town of Garner
Snerd, a groundhog famous for his weather predictions, will step out at a Garner event Feb. 2.

If you’re a groundhog fan, like me, you look forward to Feb. 2 with anticipation. That’s Groundhog Day, when our local weather prognosticators — Sir Walter Wally of Raleigh and Snerd of Garner — step out of hiding, showing their cute, furry faces and making their life-altering predictions. Will we experience six more weeks of winter or will spring arrive early? According to tradition, if a groundhog sees its shadow, we’ll have six more weeks of winter weather, but if he does not, spring will come early.

For those who have never attended local events featuring Wally and Snerd, they are unforgettable experiences, especially for children, opening their eyes to science through nature. Here are details of both events, so you don’t miss out this year.

Garner’s Groundhog Day
The Town of Garner will host “Groundhog Day” Tuesday, Feb. 2, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at White Deer Park in Garner. Go to enjoy free fun activities, including crafts, games, educational activities, music and to see a variety of live animals from CLAWS, a Chapel Hill nonprofit that helps wildlife. CLAWS will bring Snerd and his understudy to the event, as well as mammals and birds, including four red-tailed hawks, which will be released to the wild. Live and mounted specimens of arthropods will also be on display. Of course, Snerd will be the star, making his prediction at noon to Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams. Learn more.

Garner’s event is both educational and entertaining, says Katie Lockhart Spencer, outdoor education and parks manager for Garner Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources, noting that kids can touch some specimens on display. “We want to get kids to interact with wildlife, especially what they might see in their own backyards … It’s a lot of fun.”

Photo courtesy of Rob Smith/Town of Garner. Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams (in a top hat) receives Snerd’s prediction. Vinny Mammone of CLAWS is on the left.

Groundhog Day in Raleigh
In downtown Raleigh, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences will host its own Groundhog Day festivities featuring Sir Walter Wally Tuesday, Feb. 2, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., with display tables and activities located on the Nature Exploration Center's first floor. Kids can learn about the history of Groundhog Day and meet some of the original animals used to predict spring. Other exhibits will provide insight into animals who build their homes, how snakes survive winter and signs of spring. Kids can also see Wally up close and learn about the importance of wildlife sanctuaries. 

Photo Courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

“Groundhog Day is one of those things that gets people excited,” says Miranda Dowdy, Curator of Educational Events at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. “You have a cute furry animal who is telling you what to expect in the weather for the next six weeks, and we think it is important to bring science into the lore of Groundhog Day.”

Aside from learning about science, kids can prepare for the shadow ceremony by crafting their own groundhog headbands. Sir Walter Wally will lead the Shadow Ceremony at noon on the plaza in front of the museum with the help of Groundhog Whisperer Susan Kluttz, who is also the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Learn more.

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