Wiarton is home to Canada's most famous prognosticating albino groundhog and has been celebrating the Wiarton Willie Festival for over 55 years. Each year on February 2nd, dark and early morning, towns' folk and fans from all over come out to hear Willie's prediction. Will it be an early spring or six more weeks of winter?
How did it all begin?
The story begins in 1957 where local resident Mac McKenzie sent out an invitation to a hundred of his closest friends to join him in Wiarton for Groundhog Day celebrations. Well, the media got a hold of the story and a lone reporter from the Toronto Star travelled up to Wiarton to see what was going on. Unable to find the celebrations and after making inquiries all over town, the reporter was directed to the local 'establishment' where sure enough, Mac and his buddies were raising an elbow or two.
When the reporter asked Mac "Where's the deal?" Mac responded "This is it!". The reporter joined the party but was concerned the next day when he didn't have a story to bring back to the paper. Mac, always an opportunist, grabbed a white fur hat off of a lady's head and flung it in the snow. The reporter snapped a picture and a photo of the grinning group huddled around the 'groundhog' made it into Monday's paper with the caption: “High spirits, hole in ice, but as for groundhog — no dice.”
The next year 35 people showed up for the celebrations and year after year the festival grew. Today, approximately 10,000 people come for the Wiarton Willie Festival celebrations.