Does Groundhog Day hold key to SC’s future?
It’s unclear how much credence to give talk that certain well-connected South Carolina lobbyists with ties to the groundhog industry have convinced a powerful state Senator to push forward with a bill that would give the Palmetto State its very own Punxsutawney Phil.
Under the rumored proposal, a massive 12,500-acre groundhog preserve would be set up in the Pee Dee region of the state – home of said state Senator – and each Feb. 2 South Carolina would hold a ceremony of its own in which a groundhog would emerge from its home and predict the coming of spring.
Discussions have already progressed to the point that a name has been devised for the South Carolina groundhog, with the moniker “Carbuncle Cal” being bandied about, and it’s said preliminary plans have been drawn up for the preserve, which would hold up to 1,500 groundhogs.
These groundhogs would not only be available to take Carbuncle Cal’s place should he die, but would be bred and the offspring distributed to communities throughout the state, enabling towns across South Carolina to hold separate Groundhog Days of their own, with the potential to turn Feb. 2 into the state’s most lucrative holiday.
The idea is to have aficionados of Marmota monax come from around the globe to the Palmetto State to witness the spectacle, said a legislator who requested anonymity.
“This is economic development at its most sublime,” he said. “Imagine what it will mean for South Carolina if we can get tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of people to travel to our state to witness the majesty and grandeur that is Groundhog Day.
Punxsutawney Phil has been a mainstay of western Pennsylvania weather prognostication since the 1880s. According to the tradition, if Phil sees his shadow and returns to his hole, six more weeks of winter are in store. If Phil does not see his shadow, an early spring is en route.
Given that Phil has been correct just 39 percent of the time since records began being kept in 1887, some in South Carolina feel the Keystone State groundhog is no longer up to the task.
When asked how much state money would be needed to make South Carolina’s dreams of creating a groundhog enclave a reality, another lawmaker said he anticipates submitting a request for at least $7.5 million, in order to build not only a terrorist-proof home for Carbuncle Cal, but also a state-of-the-art breeding facility and hire a staff of at least 25.
South Carolina has been on the groundhog industry’s radar for years, thanks to the state’s willingness to throw away taxpayer dollars on far-fetched economic development schemes such as this, this and this.
“Convincing legislators that South Carolina needs this will be as easy as sliding off a greasy log backward,” said one lobbyist, believed to be heavily tied to the groundhog-breeding industry. “If there’s one thing South Carolina lawmakers go for hook, line and sinker, it’s harebrained economic development schemes. It didn’t take us long to cook up a ruse once we came up with the concept.”
When asked if he had concerns that state lawmakers might not bite on a plan to distribute the rodents statewide and have groundhog days across South Carolina, thereby possibly forcing communities to compete against each other for tourists, the lobbyist said he already devised a plan to offset that worry.
“What I’m thinking about to remedy any issues over competition is spreading Groundhog Day over a week or 10 days,” he said. “We’d begin by having the smallest communities in one region of the state – say the Lowcountry – hold their Groundhog Day on one day, followed by the smallest communities in another region the next day, and so on. Then, we’d move to the larger towns in each region, and finally we’d cap it off with Carbuncle Cal coming out of his hole on Feb. 2 at the Groundhog Compound.”
College basketball has its March Madness; think of this as the “Winter Wingding” for rodent lovers, said a member of the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
“Just imagine what a tourist destination South Carolina would become for lovers of groundhogs, woodchucks, whistle-pigs and any other lowland rodent you can think of,” he added. “Carbuncle Cal could be the beginning of a modern-day gold rush for South Carolina!”