Chuckles prepares

Jan. 25—MANCHESTER — Chuckles XI is busy preparing to make his annual prediction on a lengthy winter or an early spring while gearing up to meet his host of adoring fans next week.

GROUNDHOG DAY

WHAT: Chuckes XI, the state's official groundhog, will reveal his prediction for a long winter or an early spring.

WHEN: 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, at the Lutz Children's Museum, 247 S. Main St.

HOW: The event is free, but a reservation is required and space is limited. Those interested can learn more at the museum website: www.lutzmuseum.org.

The hotly-anticipated prognostication to be made by Chuckles XI — his second as the official state groundhog — will be held Thursday, Feb. 2, Groundhog Day, at the Lutz Children's Museum, 247 S. Main St. Festivities begin at 6 a.m.

Per tradition, Chuckles will whisper to the mayor of Manchester what weather the state can expect for the next six weeks, the culmination of research and observation from the prior months. Then, with great ceremony, the mayor will translate the good or bad news on whether or not Chuckles saw his shadow that morning to the crowd of anxious school children, parents, government officials, television crews and mass media.

Patricia Buxton, executive director of the Lutz Children's Museum, said the forecasting work is done "up to the minute."

"I don't have anything to release at this moment. Chuckles is still collecting his data for Feb. 2," Buxton said this week.

Chuckles' forecasting process includes looking out the window, watching weather patterns, and consulting with his colleagues in the groundhog community, she said, adding: "He's on top of it."

Buxton said Chuckles also is making sure he is on the same page with his sister, Jolene, who lives with him in the same habitat at the Lutz.

Mayor Jay Moran said this year will be his eighth prognostication translation, an event he always looks forward to.

"My two favorite days in Manchester are Groundhog Day and Road Race day," Moran said this week.

In order to prepare for his role, Moran said he visits Chuckles a few times throughout the year in order to maintain their bond.

Moran said he also works to make sure his knowledge of the groundhog language is "up to speed," though admitted that he never really had to learn it.

"When you take the oath of office as mayor, it's automatic," Moran said. "It's strange."

Moran said beyond that, he just joins Chuckles on the Lutz stage Feb. 2, listens to what the marmot has to say about the season, and reports back.

"Chuckles is in charge, not the mayor," Moran said.

Moran said he often asks Chuckles other questions during the tete-a-tete, sometimes about his own future.

"We'll just talk about simple things in groundhog language that no one else but me and Chuckles understands," Moran said.

Moran said as far as the weather prediction record, he believes six of the seven translations he participated in were accurate.

But, "it depends what people think is a lengthy winter," Moran said.

Buxton said Chuckles XI was "tentative" in his appearance last year, which was his first time in front of all the TV station cameras.

"This year, he's all set and ready to go," Buxton said.

Moran said this Chuckles has a unique personality, as some have been friendlier than others over the years.

"I believe this Chuckles is a little more ornery," Moran said, adding that Chuckles XI's favorite part of the event is the song the Town Troubadour and children sing for him.

Moran said there have been some incidents with former groundhogs who assumed the role of Chuckles, including accidental urination and biting one mayor's ear.

"You have to have quick feet — you never know what Chuckles is going to do," Moran said.

Buxton said she is looking forward to the community coming out for the seasonal event.

"It's a long-held tradition here at the Lutz, and it's something I'm very proud of," Buxton said.

This is the second in-person prognostication for Chuckles and his fans since the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's something I know brings the Manchester community together, as well as the state of Connecticut," Buxton said.

Buxton said the museum is expecting a large turnout, as nearly all the available tickets have sold out. Many also will be watching at home, she added.

Buxton said the Lutz is in the business of creating "mental time capsules," and the state groundhog prognostication is an event everyone remembers.

"When the children come here and sit on the carpet in from of the stage, that's embedded in their minds," Buxton said.

Joseph covers Manchester and Bolton for the Journal Inquirer.