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Family fun: Celebrate Groundhog Day in Wiarton

Family fun: Celebrate Groundhog Day in Wiarton

WORDS BY Andrew Hind

By early February, most of us are already feeling the weight of the winter season. The cold, the snow that grinds commutes to a halt, the seemingly endless darkness. Spring can’t come soon enough.

Wiarton has the perfect solution. Dust off wintry cobwebs with a community party that also heralds the pending arrival – hopefully sooner rather than later – of spring and its rejuvenating warmth. The Wiarton Willie Festival has been lifting winter spirits for over six decades and has taken on national significance as media from across Canada descend on this village of 2000 souls to report on whether the titular albino groundhog sees his shadow.

Willie has become so iconic to the community that a sign near the entrance to the town proudly proclaims Wiarton as the ‘Groundhog Capital of Canada’.

The Wiarton Willie Festival kicks off on Fri., Feb. 2 with a spectacular fireworks display at 7 a.m. in Bluewater Park. Shortly after is the Prediction Ceremony, at 8:07 a.m. sharp at the Wiarton Arena parking lot. An anxious hush falls over the crowd as the groggy groundhog pokes his twitching nose out of his den. Members of Willie’s ‘Shadow Cabinet’, all local dignitaries dressed in formal attire, look on.
Then, the town’s mayor asks Willie for his springtime weather forecast. If the groundhog sees his shadow, it’s six more weeks of winter. If there’s no shadow, however, we’re promised an early spring. Either way, good news or bad, everyone celebrates the word.



After Willie retreats into his den the public is invited to participate in free skating at the arena.

But there’s far more to the Wiarton Willie Festival than skating, fireworks, and predicting when spring might arrive. The fun picks up again the next day, Sat. Feb. 3, with family friendly activities from 1-4 p.m. in Bluewater Park. There are sleigh rides through the park, an axe throwing trailer, a trackless train ride, photo booth, video gaming trailer, and games for little ones. Warm bellies with hot chocolate and popcorn.
Note that Bluewater Park is located along the shores of Lake Huron. It can get cold, so dress accordingly.

Willie may well see his shadow, forecasting a longer winter, but nonetheless there are never glum faces: the sheer entertainment of the Wiarton Willie Festival sees to that.


With the event spanning two days, you’ll likely want to spend a night. Nearby Owen Sound has a selection of comfortable and affordable chain motels and hotels to choose from. Comfort Inn ( offers a nice blend of value and hospitality, and a free hot breakfast.

Just the Facts

Feb. 2–3, 2024