MILLTOWN, NJ - It all began with a moment of silence for the deceased, beloved, furry, original Milltown Mel, the rodent prognosticator of "the greatest little town in the land." Dozens of people gathered at the Milltown Post #25 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars to urge Milltown Mel II to surrender his verdict on the likelihood of winter coming to a conclusion sometime soon. (Hey, except for a blip last weekend, we haven't had it rough so far!)
At the annual Groundhog Day event, Mel hibernated in his "stump" while the Milltown Groundhog Wranglers led by Mayor Eric A. Steeber and Jerry "Mel Loves Me Best" Guthlein got the eager crowd involved in the show. The Wranglers, described by the Mayor as "a lot of guys who look like groundhogs" wore their hearts on their sleeves and their top hats on their heads as they mourned Mel the First, who passed away this year. There was a great wailing and a little bit of gnashing of teeth in his memory.
Called a "real Jersey groundhog with lots of attitude," by Guthlein, Milltown Mel II was called upon to make his first annual appearance onstage. Mel II remained happily in his carrier throughout the event. No wrangler wanted risk the outcome of Mayor Bill DeBlasio at the hands of Staten Island Chuck, a NYC groundhog with a much worse attitude in 2014.
Melmeister Guthlein then encouraged the kids in the crowd to encourage Mel II to come out to make his prediction. They blew horns, shaked stuffed roosters, and generally cat-called the reclusive rodent. (You know the drill, if the groundhog sees his shadow there will be 6 more weeks of winter; if he does not, we all are off the hook for gassing up the snowblowers.)
Miraculously, Milltown Mel not only made a prognostication but he also wrote a proclamation. The scroll read, "6 more weeks of winter and back to hibernating for me." The members of the crowd were so distraught by the prolonged prediction of a wintery wasteland that they immediate clambered inside the VFW post for free coffee and doughnuts.
The hub-bub was over for another year, as the sound system blasted the 1965 Sonny and Cher hit "I Got You, Babe." This is the song that ushers in the forever Groundhog Day in the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray.
"They say we're young, and we don't know. We won't find out until we grow."
Well, now you know. Don't put those shovels and scrapers away for a while.