Festive

The Groundhog Gamble Run

Shubenacadie Sam will decide how far people need to run on Saturday.

Meet Shubenacadie Sam, Nova Scotia’s furry, weather forecasting, celebrity.   Shubenacadie Wildlife Park

The stakes will be higher than usual for some runners on Groundhog Day.

Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park is hosting a Groundhog Gamble Run on Saturday morning.

If Shubenacadie Sam — Nova Scotia’s beloved groundhog and foreseer of weather-to-come — doesn’t see his shadow on Thursday, then the run is only five kilometers. If he does see his shadow, participants will have six more weeks of winter and have to run an extra six kilometers —  for a total of 11 kilometers.

Paul Merrigan, the race organizer, started talking to the park in late November. He’s excited to see his vision coming together so quickly.

“I’ve been wanting to come up with some ideas for the running community and tie them in to giving back to various charities,” he said. “Early in the fall, I had an idea for Groundhog Day, and realized we have a fairly famous groundhog within the region, and reached out to the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park.”

Partial proceeds of the event will be going back to the park. To date, they will be receiving over $600 from the Gamble Run.

People can register online where there are different options to choose from.

The flat rate registration fee is $25 to participate in the run, but participants can pay $40 to participate in the run and receive a finishing medal plus other mystery “swag.”

“It’s [the mystery swag] all related to the theme, whether it’s Groundhog Day or the gambling,” said Merrigan. “I haven’t announced it because it’s more of a surprise for when people are there.”

There’s also a virtual option for people who can’t make it to the event. People can register, so they’re still donating to the park and taking part in the gamble, but they can run the distance themselves at a different location.

The flat rate for the virtual run is $30 or $50 to receive a medal and other “swag.”

“Some are as far away as Glendale, Arizona,” said Merrigan.

There are currently 60 people registered for the run at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park. Another 17 are in the virtual event.

Regardless of their location, the runners’ fates depend on Sam’s forecast.

Sue Penney, education coordinator at the park, said the whole place has been a buzz as they get ready.

“It’s crazy here today,” she said on Wednesday. “We’re practicing our groundhog language, but he [Sam] is much better at sign language then groundhog language … he’s also been shown where he’s going to be for the main event. He has a particularly large pen for the event, so people can see him and get a better view.”

Penney told The Signal that Shubenacadie Sam has been preparing for his big day by “sleeping and eating a lot of broccoli.”

The run is scheduled to take place Saturday at 11 a.m. For people who don’t feel like walking on the wild side, registration for the run will be open until Feb. 3.

Sam is scheduled to give his forecast at 8 a.m. sharp tomorrow morning and can be viewed live.