A local groundhog tradition

By on February 4, 2015

Cocalico Cal crash lands in Ephrata and predicts early spring

Editor’s Note: While Punxsutawney Phil gets the most media attention on Groundhog Day, nearby Ephrata hosts one of the most unique depictions of the celebration. This year’s event, which serves as a community fundraiser, was held Saturday, Jan . 31.

“The Lincoln Lodge of the Maximus Marmot is proud to help Cocalico Cal in his 13th year of accurate, always 100 percent correct prognostication.”

With that proclamation by Lodge Member Don “Be Bop” Martin, the always earlier-than-the-competition’s annual Groundhog Day ceremony began in Ephrata Grater Park.

Despite the morning’s frigid temperatures and the few lingering inches of snow on the ground in front of the band shell, there was still a decent turn-out — approximately 100 people were on hand — for the event.

Unlike the events surrounding Punxsutawney Phil and Octoraro Orphie, the fine gentlemen of The Lincoln Lodge of the Maximus Marmot keep tongue firmly in cheek as they await the weather prognostication of their fuzzy, and quite likely inebriated, mascot. As usual, Cocalico Cal made his way to Ephrata by unconventional means, flying in from China, where he was acting as a consultant to the Chinese government in helping them establish Panda Bear Day, the Chinese version of Groundhog Day. Cal flew in “Flintstone-style” via the first Amish owned and operated airline, Martindale Airlines. As one might expect, Cal’s plane landed hard while spewing noxious smoke that sent many spectators running for fresh air.

Cocalico Cal flies into Grater Park via Martindale Airlines during Saturday’s shenanigans. (Photos by Stan Hall)

Cocalico Cal flies into Grater Park via Martindale Airlines during Saturday’s shenanigans.           (Photos by Stan Hall)

 

 

After his less-than-perfect landing, Cocalico Cal crawled out from the wreckage, cigar still firmly planted between his lips, and said, “Spring, spring what a wonderful thing. The air turns warm and the birds will sing. It’s cold right now, but it won’t be long ‘til those birds are singing their favorite song. So if you’re going to ask me, ‘When will spring get here?’ I’ll say, ‘In two weeks just like last year!’”

This declaration met with a raucous round of applause from the spectators.

Once the Benny Hill / Monty Python meets Lancaster County skit was over, everyone made their way down to the Cocalico Creek to see “Baby Marmots” Dave Dickson and Hubert Camacho undergo initiation into The Lincoln Lodge of the Maximus Marmot. This initiation normally entails a dip into the chilly waters of the creek, but MC Tony Kilkuski gave the two men the option to immerse an “appendage of choice” rather than risk hypothermia during a morning that saw temperatures dip dangerously close to single digits. However, after a brief period of wading to acclimate themselves to the icy temperature of the creek, both men embraced the spirit of The Lodge and completely immersed themselves in the frigid water. After climbing ashore, a spectator asked a breathless Dickson how the water was, to which he replied, “It isn’t warm.”

New lodge members take the plunge in Cocalico Creek.

New lodge members take the plunge in Cocalico Creek.

While this event is a great deal of fun, underlying the toilet humor, the buffoonery, and the borderline “furry” feel of the event is a sense of community that is a hallmark of The Lodge. As Don “Be Bop” Martin pointed out, “The lodge has donated generously to local charities over the years, and once again we have Ephrata Area Social Services here and they are collecting much needed food and monetary donations. Also, this year the lodge organized a blood drive helping out the Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank.”

It seems that the hard-drinking, cigar-smoking groundhog that is our very own Cocalico Cal has a heart of gold under that moth-eaten hide of his.

Merriell Moyer is as a freelance feature reporter for the Record Express. He welcomes reader feedback at merriell071@gmail.com.

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