Groundhog Day and the Culture of Storytelling

What? You didn’t give a talk on the history of the Groundhog last weekend?

For 55 years, my awesome dad was a Rotarian. He started his affiliation as a college fellow in Uruguay in the late 1940s and was a loyal member of the Sidney and Columbus clubs. But it was the lesser, astute Rotary tradition he embraced which actually made him headlines.

He loved Groundhog Day. And he formed a committee inside Rotary to commemorate it with storytelling. Every year. Just like Groundhog Day.

I have been very transparent that my dad’s love of oration— giving talks, listening to talks, taking me to speeches– inspired my appreciation for the art of public speaking and storytelling at a young age. So to many Rotary meetings I went. And also to Groundhog Day celebrations.

They went like this.

A bunch of men (I don’t remember women being this frivolous with their early morning time) gathered at the Bob Evans on Henderson Road on Groundhogs Day at about 7 am. One daring soul would dress up like Woodchuck Chuck and run by the front window, also visible to a large pattern of rush hour traffic, at sunrise (usually about 7:40 am). At the same time my father, the group’s official historian, would deliver a paper on the history of Groundhog Day.

Always well-researched and delivered, each year brought a little different flavor to the Groundhog Day storytelling. The group would share in a meal of scrambled eggs and coffee, declare that Chuck saw his shadow (c’mon we live in Ohio- he always sees his shadow here), and then still make it to work by 830 am.

As I explore modern storytelling cultures this year, I think about my dear, departed Father. If he were still alive, this would be one of his favorite storytelling moments. He bathed in the challenge of finding a new story to tell of a ridiculously, ritualistic tradition, to a group to humans who loved how storytelling brought them together. Even if it was about a rodent.

PS: ICYMI, this year the Groundhog…  didn’t see his shadow. Either way, we always have more winter in Ohio.