Bowman Bill predicts rest of winter

Posted: January 31, 2013

The Winchester Star

Handley Regional Library director Trish Ridgeway gets the weather prediction from Bowman Bill, the groundhog, during a Groundhog Day event last year at Bowman Library. This year’s event will be held Saturday. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Participants in last year’s Bowman Bill Groundhog Day event wore groundhog hats. This year, the event, set for Saturday, will feature activities and ice cream sundaes. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)

Winchester — For a few minutes Saturday morning, a large group of local people will be clamoring for six more weeks of winter.

Children and adults who attend Bowman Bill the groundhog puppet’s weather forecast know that if he sees his shadow, they are in for some treats, said Donna Hughes, youth services division head of Handley Regional Library.

At 11 a.m. Saturday, when he gives his prediction, Hughes expects a large group of people at the Mary Jane and James L. Bowman Library, 871 Tasker Road, Stephens City, to be yelling for that outcome.

“Everybody cheers for the groundhog to see his shadow because if he does see his shadow, we have all kinds of shadow making activities that go on,” she said. “One of them is that we serve up ice cream with chocolate sauce on it for the shadow.”

In its 11th year, Bowman Bill Groundhog Day, which is free and open to the public, has become a popular family event that last year drew about 200 people, Hughes said.

Children will join in with puppets as they sing songs related to groundhogs and listen to a story about Groundhog Day, she said.

Then Bill comes out and library director Trish Ridgeway asks him what he saw that morning. Ridgeway will pass the message along to Cary Brubaker, chair of the Handley board of directors, who will translate the prediction from groundhog to English.

Brubaker, who has been a spectator with her children at the event for several years, said she is thrilled she gets to be the “Groundhog Queen” and pass on Bill’s prediction. She might check out some library books on the groundhog language to make sure she gets the prediction right.

“It will be a newfound skill for me to work on before Saturday,” she said with a laugh.

If Bill does see his shadow, that means he has six more weeks to hibernate, Hughes said. But for the children, that means a special treat of ice cream with a cookie and chocolate sauce on it to celebrate.

There also will be several “shadow activities” to teach children about the direction of light and how different size shadows can be made, Hughes said.

“We have some tables put together and draped with cloth, and we let the kids crawl underneath the tables and come out and see if they can see their shadows,” she said.

There also will be Zhu Zhu pet races, which feature toy guinea pigs racing down a track.

The idea for the groundhog event came from Jane Murphy, a former school librarian who lived in Punxsutawney, Pa., at one time and did her student teaching at Bowman more than a decade ago, Hughes said. She offered to create a Groundhog Day program in Stephens City, and it was so successful that the library kept the event going.

The event provides a good outing for families in the midst of winter, when children are ready to get outside, she said, and it also draws people into the library and hopefully starts to make visiting a habit for them.

“When we have events like this, we hope it brings people in who see what we have in our collections and in our resources and that they come back again,” she said.


Bowman Bill, the groundhog puppet, will give his weather forecast for the next six weeks at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Mary Jane and James L. Bowman Library, 871 Tasker Road, Stephens City. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact 540-869-9000, ext. 215.

— Contact Laura McFarland at