UPDATE: Sun Prairie makes new plans for Groundhog Day

"Jimmy the Groundhog Character" Photo courtesy of Downtown Sun Prairie

Posted: Thursday, January 28, 2016 --- 4:55 p.m.

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. --- There will be two Jimmy the Groundhogs at the Sun Prairie Groundhog Day ceremony this year. Jimmy XII will make his first Groundhog Day prediction, but he will also be joined by Jimmy the Groundhog Character.

The character costume was donated to Downtown Sun Prairie by Keith Janick of CJ Huggables and Mascots USA. The Sun Prairie Downtown Business Improvement District says Janick built the costume to support the city's tradition of having a groundhog at the ceremony.

Sun Prairie's Groundhog Day ceremony made international headlines after last year's "Jimmy the Groundhog" bit the mayor during the ceremony. Jimmy XII will be kept in a cage this year. The event will be held on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 at 6:50 a.m.
Posted: Friday, January, 15, 2016 --- 8:15 p.m.

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. --- It made headlines around the world.

"We heard about it from people down in Australia to England," says Sun Prairie Mayor Paul Esser.

Jimmy the Groundhog tried to take a bite out of Sun Prairie Mayor Jon Freund on Groundhog Day last year.

"When he was listening to the groundhog getting the forecast from Jimmy and about to pass it on to the rest of the world Jimmy reached in and nipped Mayor Freund's ear," says Esser. "That started all the controversy."

Sun Prairie's business improvement district was quickly notified by the USDA that capturing wild animals for exhibit was against the law.

Esser says someone made the decision to release the groundhog back into his native habitat. With Jimmy back in the wilderness, many were concerned this spelled an end for the February 2nd Celebration, but that will not be the case.

"As I understand it they have contacted somebody that has a groundhog," explains Esser. "They have a license for it so it's legal and official. That person is prepared to bring that groundhog to Sun Prairie."

Mayor Esser says he's not worried about facing this year's "Jimmy" because the groundhog will be in a cage.

UPDATED Friday, January 15, 2016---8:24 a.m.

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (AP) -- Sun Prairie is without a groundhog for this year's Groundhog Day festivities, after the animal used at last year's event bit the former mayor.

Images of Jimmy the Groundhog biting then-Mayor Jon Freund's ear were widely circulated, bringing unwanted attention to Sun Prairie.

Afterward, authorities told Jimmy's owners they needed a license to own a groundhog. That prompted Ti and Jeff Gauger to release Jimmy into the wild.

Ti Gauger manages the Business Improvement District, which organizes Groundhog Day festivities. She tells the Wisconsin State Journal that organizers are scrambling for a replacement.

Gauger says the city's event will begin at sunrise Feb. 2 even if no replacement is found.

But if a groundhog is found in time, this year it will be kept in a cage to avoid another nibble.

Copyright 2016: Associated Press


UPDATED: Tuesday, February 3, 2015

PETA sent Sun Prairie a letter on Tuesday, requesting that future events be groundhog-free.

Senior Director Colleen O'Brien released a statement saying "While this groundhog's weather prognostication was unclear, his actions read loud and clear—he had no desire to be handled in front of the noisy crowd and flashing lights." She went on to say "PETA is calling on Sun Prairie to make future celebrations groundhog-free—for the safety of the animals and elected officials alike."

We reached out to Sun Prairie mayor Jon Freund. He said "Jimmy is extremely well cared for and will be the star of many groundhog days to come."

Freund added that he did not need any medical treatment after the bite happened.


Posted: Monday, February 2, 2015 --- 11:25 a.m.

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (AP) -- The mayor of Sun Prairie has learned a valuable lesson about one of his city's most famous critters.

You don't want to get too close to a groundhog.

During the Groundhogs Day celebration Monday in Sun Prairie, Jimmy's handler held the groundhog next the face of Mayor Jonathan Freund and Jimmy promptly bit down on the mayor's ear.

Freund flinched, but went on with his declaration that there would be an early spring due to Jimmy's prognostication. The Groundhog Day celebration became even more precarious when Jimmy's handlers, Jerry and Maria Hahn, said the mayor had gotten it wrong and that there would be six more weeks of winter.

Then the city issued a statement which said only the mayor can translate Jimmy's prediction.

Copyright: Associated Press 2015