OTD: Wiarton man invites public to Canada’s first Groundhog Day party

On today’s date in 1956, Wiarton, Ont.’s Mac Mackenzie published a press release inviting people to his town for what would become Canada’s first Groundhog Day party.

Although the tradition of using a groundhog to forecast the weather dates back to the 19th century, Mackenzie was only seeking an excuse to throw a party.

After a Toronto Star reporter arrived and asked about the groundhog’s whereabouts, Mackenzie threw his wife’s fur hat into the snow so the reporter could take a picture.

A 2015 story published by CBC News explains: “(The reporter) had to have a story. He couldn’t go back to Toronto without something. So we tossed a fur hat with a button on it into the snow. We said it was a groundhog, and the photo ran in the (Toronto) Star.”


Today’s Wiarton Willie Groundhog Day festival attracts major crowds to the town, which is located off Georgian Bay on the Bruce Peninsula.

In 1999, the festival became mired in a scandal as organizers discovered—only a few days before the big event—Willie had died during his winter hibernation. They put what they claimed to be Willie’s dead body, clutching a carrot, in a small casket with one-cent coins over his eyes.

The scandal erupted when it was discovered Willie’s body was so badly decomposed it could not be shown to the public; instead, organizers put a stuffed version in the casket.

For the next five years, a replacement, “Wee Willie,” fulfilled the role until he was replace by “Wee Willie 2.”


In 2013, Canada Post released four definitives depicting young animals, including the groundhog, that are indigenous to Canada.

Created by designers Monique Dufour and Sophie Lafortune, these stamps featured the same visual stylings of the series’ previous two editions: the animal’s image is set against a mostly white background with a hint of their natural habitat revealed.

“Animals stamps are always popular – and focusing on young animal brings in the cuteness factor that we hope gives both collectors and mailers a smile when they see these stamps,” said Danielle Trottier, then-manager of stamp design at Canada Post.

As in previous years, the four definitives (63-cent domestic; U.S.; international; and oversized mail rates) were issued in both booklets and coils, the latter of which included coils of four and 10 stamps.

The first-day cancellation was “Ancaster ON,” the location where the woodchucks on the domestic stamp were photographed.

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