MILLTOWN, NJ - Last February, Milltown Mel predicted there would be an early spring. In March, the area had a surprise blizzard. This morning, on a chilly, overcast Groundhog Day, Milltown Mel II made his third prediction, calling for another early spring. Mel agreed with his groundhog counterpart over in Staten Island. Chuck also did not see his shadow, forecasting an early spring. However, the big guy, Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow, meaning six more weeks of winter. Thus is the accuracy of Groundhog Day. According to data from the Stormfax Almanac, Phi has only been correct 39 percent of the time and has been making predictions since 1887. His handlers, feel differently, of course. Reportedly saying that Phil is always 100 percent correct.
Early spring or a longer winter didn't really matter to the crowd that gathered outside American Legion Post 25 today and neither did the freezing temperatures. Folks came out before the sun even kissed the sky for the event. The Milltown Wranglers were on hand, welcoming residents to what has become a borough tradition be giving out noise makers and t-shirts with the message, "It's a Milltown thing." Coffee and doughnuts were available to warm everyone up after Mel had his big moment.
This year marked Milltown's tenth Groundhog Day celebration. Jerry and Cathy Guthlein held the first Groundhog Day festivities at the Bronson and Guthlein Funeral Home. The event quickly grew in scope and had to be moved to the American Legion on JFK Drive to accommodate all the Groundhog Day revelers.
The Guthlein's were huge fans of Bill Murray's cult classic, "Groundhog Day," taking a trip out to Punxsutawney to experience the time-honored tradition first hand. They were moved to create a similar atmosphere in Milltown every February 2. The original Milltown Mel passed quietly in his sleep in the summer of 2015 after seven Groundhog Days. His pal, Milltown Mel II is now carrying on the tradition.
Milltown Wrangler, John McNamara removed Milltown Mel from the large stump that proudly bears his name. McNamara purchased the Bronson and Guthlein Funeral Home in October of 2017. As the crowd chanted, "Wake up Mel" in the background, the time came for McNamara's and Mel's big moment.
To the delight of the crowd, an early spring is apparently on the horizon. Now, it's time for Mel to get back to sleep.
Groundhogs are one of the animal species that hibernates during the cold weather months. After the first frost, groundhogs typically settle down for their long winter's nap. Some groundhogs checkout for five months while others snooze for two to three, depending on how cold the winter weather is.